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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Strong

3 Laws Can Help Bring Restaurants Comeback Strong. Contact your State Reps Today!

The pandemic's toll on New York City restaurants has been devastating. Three pieces of critical legislation are in the balance to help determine the restaurant industry’s comeback in 2021 and into the future. In a press conference held yesterday, the NYC Hospitality Alliance was joined by State Senator Jessica Ramos and restaurant owners who made the case for the swift passage of three common-sense laws that would:

  • Grant temporary SLA liquor licenses in New York City, like the rest of the State, so new restaurants can open sooner, hire workers more quickly, and generate needed tax revenue;

  • Keep the alcohol “to-go” policy, which has been very popular with consumers and a lifeline source of revenue for New York City restaurants and bars; and

  • Allow for the continuation of alcohol service in New York City’s outdoor dining.

Today, industry and business organizations from across the city and state today joined the effort by issuing a letter of support to all members of the NYS Senate and Assembly. The supporting groups included ROAR, Bronx Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn Allied Bars and Restaurants, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association, Hotel Association of New York City, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, New York City Hospitality Alliance, New York Japanese Restaurant Association, New York State Latino Restaurant Bar & Lounge Association, New York State Restaurant Association, NYC Business Improvement District (BID) Association, Queens Chamber of Commerce, Queens Together Restaurant Association, Staten Island Chamber of Commerce

This call to action comes after many months of restaurants being reduced to zero or limited indoor occupancy, and fifteen months of economic devastation heaped on the industry by a pandemic that forced thousands of restaurants, bars, and nightlife venues to close their doors for good. Even as federal relief has been deployed to stop the bleeding in the industry, the monies allocated to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund have essentially been exhausted, while countless local restaurants are still in a dire situation and more financial relief is desperately needed.

“New York City’s restaurant industry was absolutely devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite good news on the vaccination front, and the continued easing of pandemic restrictions, restaurants across the city are still struggling and need an opportunity to recoup their unprecedented losses,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “That’s why these three pieces of legislation are critical to the recovery of this ailing industry.”

Rigie continued,If we want New York City to once again be the restaurant capital of the world, the global capital of commerce, entertainment, and tourism, then it’s crucial that necessary support is provided to these businesses. With economic recovery on the line, we’re calling on lawmakers to pass this slate of common-sense legislation in the next twelve session days.”

Outside of continuing the popular alcohol to-go program and allowing customers to enjoy a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail while dining al fresco, a major concern for small business owners is a current policy that forbids the State Liquor Authority (SLA) from issuing temporary liquor licenses to new restaurants and bars in New York City, as is permitted everywhere else in New York. New restaurant owners inside the five boroughs are forced to wait four to six months before legally pouring patrons’ drinks, even when they’re ready to open, while a license is being processed, slowing the city’s economic recovery.

“At a time when we should be encouraging and supporting all of our state’s entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry to re-open their doors or start new businesses, New York City’s business owners are forced to wait more than five months for the liquor licenses their businesses need to function,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, the Senate sponsor of the bill that would allow the SLA to grant temporary liquor permits. “My bill will allow the State Liquor Authority to grant temporary alcohol retail permits to businesses in New York City—ensuring the same support and privileges are extended to downstate businesses and all our restaurants have the tools they need to get back on their feet.”

"Thousands of restaurants in New York City have depended on outdoor dining to remain safe and economically viable as COVID-19 related restrictions created unprecedented hardships,” said Senator Roxanne J. Persaud. "Given the success of the model, codifying this program into law is crucial to the continued survival of New York City's restaurant industry and countless small businesses."

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an immense toll on our restaurants and many of these small businesses have relied on the sale of to-go alcohol as a critical revenue source to help them weather the storm,” said State Senator Brian Benjamin, who is sponsoring a take-out cocktail bill in the Senate. “We now have the opportunity to provide them with some level of economic certainty by extending this program in law and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this legislation passed this session.”

Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, sponsor of a bill to allow to-go alcohol, said, “The ability to sell take-out cocktails with food orders has been an important economic lifeline for numerous restaurants during the pandemic. Codifying this ability in law will provide an ongoing revenue source that will provide stability and help numerous restaurants recover.”

“Despite the good fortune of being able to reopen the restaurant we loved, outdated laws have prevented me and my business partner from being able to obtain a temporary liquor license, which our restaurant depends on to keep the lights on,” said Daniel Abrams, co-owner of the Mermaid Inn. “I can tell you firsthand how important this legislation is to the survival of my business, and similarly, to entrepreneurs across the city, who are trying to do their part to revive the city’s hospitality industry. For the sake of countless small businesses, lawmakers must pass this legislation.”

“Like many restaurants that are in the process of reopening, getting back up and running has been exciting but also full of ups and downs,” said Nicolas Matar, co-owner of Salinas in West Chelsea. “As we continue to recoup the losses that the pandemic forced onto our business, and so many others like ours, having alcohol to-go is yet another way to help us pay rent, utilities, wages, and other operating expenses, while continuing to offer our customers the wines and cocktails they love.”

The last day of the legislative calendar is scheduled for June 10. To support restaurants and ensure the passage of these bills call or write to your State Senators and Assemblymembers today!

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