Liquor stores fed up with coronavirus booze-to-go rules for restaurants
By Lisa Fickenscher
June 29, 2020
A bar brawl is brewing over the to-go cocktail, The Post has learned.
Since kicking off in March, the Empire State’s coronavirus rule allowing bars and restaurants to sell booze on the go has tested the liquor retailer’s nerves, especially given the multiple 30-day extensions it’s been granted by Gov. Cuomo. Now, two state legislators are calling for the to-go cocktail to live on – potentially forever – sending the industry over the edge.
“If passed, these bills will affect your store and your livelihood,” Stefan Kalogridis, president of the New York State Liquor Store Association, wrote in a letter to members this month. “Restaurants and bars will be operating like liquor stores that can also sell food, taking those sales away from your store,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.
The trade group, which did not respond to a request for comment, is raising PAC funds to fight the proposals by NY state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), who wants to allow bars and restaurants continue to sell booze to go for two more years, and state Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), who wants to make it permanent.
Struggling bar and restaurant owners say they are in desperate need of the business to-go booze offers.
“It’s a terrible overreaction by the liquor store groups,” Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association, told The Post. “Our members are desperate.”
John Clement, who owns Clem’s and The Richardson in Williamsburg, says liquor sales have “been the only thing that’s kept us alive.” His sales are at 30 percent of what they were a year ago and are expected to continue to sag as Cuomo pushes back plans to let bars and restaurants fully reopen.
“The liquor stores are protecting their turf, but this is a fight for survival for us,” added Scott Gerber, owner of four swanky bars in the city, including Campbell Apartment.
Liquor store owners view it as a “power grab by legislators,” said Michael Correra, executive director of the Metro Package Store Association trade group.
The pandemic has not “been the financial party for liquor stores that everyone thinks it has been,” said Correra, noting that wealthier neighborhoods have emptied out.
The liquor store owners are especially upset that bars and restaurants are being allowed to sell entire bottles of wine and liquor, a fact that Cymbowitz took into consideration with his proposal.
“My bill only allows for a certain amount of ounces of wine and beer to go, and no bottles are allowed,” he told The Post.