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NY drinks to go the way to go

The outdoor equipment tax credit and drinks-to-go measure

The outdoor equipment tax credit and drinks-to-go measure would help Long Island bars and eateries. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to reinstate the ability to sell alcohol to go, outlined in her State of the State address last week, could be an enormous boost for Long Island’s restaurants and bars, which have struggled throughout the pandemic and continue to need all the support and patronage they can get.

During the height of the pandemic in 2020, former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order allowing residents to add alcohol to their takeout orders. The measure helped to keep some restaurants afloat during those dark months when indoor dining was shuttered and business waned.

Last year, the State Legislature had the opportunity to extend the to-go rules — but lawmakers unfortunately let them lapse.

Yet the region’s economy, which relies on restaurants and bars, still needs help. Hochul’s ideas, including the alcohol-to-go revival and the proposal for a small business tax credit for restaurants purchasing outdoor dining equipment, are welcome. They complement legislation she signed last year that eases the permitting process for new bars and restaurants.

Hochul would be wise to include aspects of last year’s legislation, which rightly limited how many drinks someone could order, prevented restaurants from selling full bottles of wine or liquor, and required the sale of food along with any drinks.

Even with those provisions, liquor stores and their supporters had objections last year, saying their businesses would be hurt, and it’s likely Hochul will face such opposition again. But this effort is too important to be stymied by such pushback when the bill's details can address the concerns. An improving economy will ripple through and lift up all industries, and the help provided to restaurants and bars won't hurt liquor stores if done right.

Hochul and state lawmakers should also use this opportunity to take a broader look at other state liquor laws — from the hours liquor stores can be open to what kinds of alcohol grocery stores and others can sell. That could use an update, too.

It’ll be important for state and local officials to examine how the alcohol to-go concept works in practice, especially now that residents aren’t locked down at home, and to be prepared to reevaluate if tweaks must be made. Some responsibility lies with residents, who should take advantage of the drinks-to-go concept safely and responsibly.

The return of drinks-to-go shouldn’t wait. Now is the time when restaurants and bars will most benefit, as they face the long winter months, punctuated by the omicron variant and outdoor dining that’s far less palatable in the cold and snow.

Giving restaurants a badly needed revenue stream while allowing diners to patronize their favorite places by enjoying dinner and a drink in a toasty home is a win for everyone. Salute!

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.