To-go drinks in NYC are now legal—here’s what you need to know

It’s official: to-go cocktails are here to stay…for three years, at least. 

Just a few months after calling for the permanent legalization of take-away drinks, Governor Kathy Hochul legalized both the sale and delivery of to-go booze from bars and restaurants all over the state for three years, if purchased alongside something “substantial” to eat. At the end of the pre-set term, legislators will have to decide whether to make the change permanent.

But what, exactly, does the new law entail? 

Are to-go drinks legal in New York?

Back in 2020, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo first allowed restaurants and bars to serve to-go drinks as a way to assuage the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a lot of eateries to shutter indefinitely. 

At the time, businesses were required to serve food alongside the drinks—hence the common reference to “Cuomo chips,” part of a myriad of $1 items that functioned as circumventions to the guidelines. 

Cuomo’s executive order eventually expired but, in January of this year, Hochul publicly expressed her desire to re-instate the initiative.

Is NYC still doing to-go drinks?

This week, Hochul enacted a budget bill that officially legalizes the sale and delivery of to-go cocktails statewide for three years but the law requires customers to purchase a “substantial food item” alongside the drinks. 

“New York’s nightlife and hospitality industry is second to none, and by allowing the sale of to-go drinks we will continue to support the industry’s recovery from the pandemic,” the Governor said in an official statement.

A few days following Hochul’s decision, the State Liquor Authority (SLA) held an emergency meeting to figure out the exact guidelines surrounding the new mandate, specifically addressing what a “substantial food item” even is.

According to Gothamist, the SLA believes that “soups, sandwiches, salads, chicken wings and hot dogs are all substantial regardless if ‘they’re fresh, processed, precooked or frozen’.” Bar nuts, candies and potato chips, on the other hand, do not fall within the permissible sphere of foods as defined by the provision.

“Obvious efforts to circumvent the law, for example an unreasonably small portion of soup, a serving of canned beans, a handful of lettuce, or charging a small extra fee for an alcoholic beverage in lieu of a food item not actually ordered or delivered will be treated as a violation of the law,” read the guidance, which you can find here in full.

Needless to say, goodbye forever Cuomo chips.

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