Governor Signs Budget Bills – Drinks to Go Legal Again…But We Have a Few Questions

Governor Hochul has signed all of the budget bills into law and since drinks to go was set to take effect immediately, it’s legal once again to sell drinks to go. Some parts of the law are clear:

  • It’s in effect for 3 years. If the legislature does nothing drinks to go will go away three years from now.
  • Drinks to go must be sold with a substantial food item.
  • Bottles of wine or liquor cannot be sold to go.
  • There are no limits on the number of drinks to go that you can sell – not to an individual, nor per food item.
  • Drinks to go must be sold in the same manner and price as is sold on premises.
  • Drinks to go must be sold with a sealed container.

Some parts are unclear:

  • What is substantial food?
  • If bottles of wine or liquor cannot be sold, can they be placed in other glass containers (carafe), sealed, and sold to go?
  • What about bottles/cans of mixed-cocktails?

“Substantial food” is intended to mean more than a bag of chips but less than a meal or entree. Similarly, a prohibition on selling bottles of wine or liquor doesn’t mean a prohibition on selling cocktails in a can or a bottle. Such an interpretation would turn the prohibition from bottles “of liquor” to bottles that “contain liquor.” But we’ll have to wait for the State Liquor Authority to weigh in before we have clarity. Stay tuned!