New York State to Lift Rule Mandating Food Served With Alcohol

The leaders of the New York State Legislature said Tuesday they would move on the next day to suspend a pandemic directive that required customers to order food when purchasing alcohol at bars and restaurants.

The food directive was originally imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in July 2020 in an attempt to keep patrons seated at tables and reduce mingling that could lead to large crowded gatherings, fueling the spread of the virus. The repeal of the rule would go into effect after passing both legislative chambers in Albany, which could happen this week.

The rule had been criticized by many, including the restaurant industry and many Republican lawmakers, as arbitrary and an unfair business regulation economically detrimental to bars that weren’t accustomed to serving food.

While some bars and restaurants had begun to eschew the directive in recent months, others were using creative workarounds to comply with the rule, providing the bare minimum and cheapest option that would count as “food” under the governor’s directive.

The restaurant industry welcomed the announcement, while calling for other restrictions to also be lifted.

“The public health justification for the food rule was always questionable, so this is good news because it is past time to repeal it,” said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, an industry group. “But the state also needs to repeal the rule prohibiting customers from sitting at a bar in New York City, which doesn’t make sense when you can sit at a table six feet away, and they should modify the midnight curfew.”

The move by the legislature comes a few months after it curtailed Mr. Cuomo’s emergency powers, a sharp rebuke to the governor that gave lawmakers additional oversight over the pandemic response.

Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Mr. Cuomo, said on Tuesday that, given the state’s coronavirus data, “lifting this Covid-related restriction was something we were in the process of implementing in the coming days.”

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