Governor Hochul’s proposal to allow restaurants, taverns, and other on-premises operators to sell drinks-to-go as part of the State Budget has re-started the discussion over this policy. The announcement was applauded by the public who celebrated the chance to once again get their favorite drinks for takeout. And businesses and employees cheered the additional revenue this would bring.
But New York’s liquor store lobby has already begun a campaign of misinformation and distortion in an effort to block this popular proposal. Its basic premise is that allowing restaurants to sell drinks-to-go will result in a threat to the public health and that it will be economically devastating to liquor stores.
There is no evidence to support their claims about drinks-to-go posing a risk to public safety. And there’s plenty of evidence to show that it’s not a threat to liquor stores. It wasn’t that long ago that liquor stores controlled two-thirds of the state’s liquor sales. By 2019, just before the pandemic began, liquor stores sold 76% of all liquor in New York and last year they sold 85% – even with drinks-to-go allowed during most of this period. The data indicates that drinks-to-go will not put liquor stores in jeopardy.
The Governor’s support for this proposal has had an immediate impact on the Legislature’s response. Early reports suggest we’re in a better position this year than last, but we continue to hear “concerns” about what this proposal will do to liquor stores in spite of all of the evidence that the stores are at no risk. It’s a perfect example of the squeaky wheel getting the attention – even if what they say is untrue. The noise being generated by unhappy liquor store owners pushing a false narrative is drowning out our coherent, fact-based advocacy.
We’re kicking off a campaign to counteract noisy liquor stores with a two pronged response. We’re holding press conferences across New York State on Wednesday this week (February 16) with the New York State Restaurant Association to start our effort to engage the public in this fight. The events are being held in Albany, Buffalo, Long Island, Queens, and Westchester to get to word out. Contact our office if you want to be part of them. Drinks-to-go is very popular with the public so we need them to speak up. The press events will be followed up by a social media campaign seeking to generate contacts to legislators from the public in support of drinks-to-go.
The public activation is being complemented by an industry grass roots effort. We’ve partnered with our colleagues at the New York State Restaurant Association to help you communicate your support for drinks-to-go to legislators using this online tool. Contact our office if you’d prefer to write or call your legislators and we can provide you with their information.
As part of the budget, the Assembly and Senate will review the Governor’s proposal and will communicate their position on key issues through their one-house budgets in the middle of March. That will set-off last minute negotiations to finalize agreements over the budget. If we do our work over the next 30 days, the Assembly and Senate will both include drinks-to-go in their budget proposals and then we can iron out the details as the budget negotiations come to a close. We’ll report back on our progress next month.