With bars and restaurants around the state converting to take-out and delivery services, a new era of ordering alcoholic drinks to go is upon us.
After Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued the executive order March 16, questions arose about how local businesses would offer this new service while complying with open container laws and ensuring that patrons were not underage.
Alcoholic beverages sold for off-premises consumption may be sold in any closed container of any size, provided that the customer also purchases food and that the sale is consistent with municipal open container ordinances, according to the state Liquor Authority.
Businesses that violate the executive order regarding on-premises service can face fines up to $10,000.
Crossroads Brewing Company owner Ken Landin is offering curbside pickup at the brewery’s Athens location.
“We have the same protocol as if someone is coming in,” he said. “If it’s someone we didn’t recognize or trying to buy something underage, we would card them. You have to exercise the same protocol, you have to be safe. You have to make sure the folks coming in to buy alcohol have proper identification.”
Crossroads has condensed its menu and reduced its hours to 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1-7 p.m. on Saturday, Landin said. The Catskill location is temporarily closed.
“The take-out is relatively steady,” he said. “People in Athens need a place to go and pick stuff up.”
Carding hasn’t become an issue for Liam Singer, owner of HiLo and Avalon Lounge in Catskill.
“We’ve only done a couple deliveries so far,” Singer said. “It hasn’t been an issue. The person [who ordered] was a regular I already knew. If it was someone I didn’t know, we’d have carded them when we got there.”
At Avalon Lounge, business has primarily shifted to food service, Singer said.
“The focus has shifted more toward food,” he said. “The alcohol sales are not super high. People might get a bottle or two of something to go along with their dinner. It doesn’t carry the business the way it does normally.”
HiLo is closed during the week but has cocktail specials Friday and Saturday nights. There are generally six options to choose from the quart-sized beverages, Singer said.
“Most people don’t have the necessary ingredients on hand to make something unique,” he said. “It’s something people will still seek out.”
Singer is grateful that this type of service is being allowed during these trying times.
“Everyone I know in the industry is appreciative that New York was able to move fast on that,” he said. “It’s new territory for everybody. For us its been a nice bit of added business.”
American Glory in Hudson and Tannersville has adjusted its business model due to the pandemic, owner Joe Fierro said.
“We’re doing take-out service,” he said. “I have a few remaining employees. We’re running out of money and I’m personally funding the shortfall and desperately awaiting help from the SBA.”
Fierro converted the outdoor dining space at the restaurant into a pandemic-proof bubble, using 10-ply plastic.
“It’s completely covered in plastic,” he said. “Our employees are wearing gloves. Everything is paid for in advance with a credit card. We have a full bar. Anyone who would like a cocktail can come have a drink. We are checking ID, making sure the beverage sold is in a closed container. We seal it with a piece of tape. We tell people it is not to be drank on a public street. Do not drink it in your car. We do not give out straws.”
Part of the new business model includes bulking up on quantity.
American Glory is offering family meals for $29 dollars which serve four people. Fierro purchased brown gallon jugs to sell growlers and is selling other alcoholic beverages such as sangria by the gallon.
Alcoholic beverages are pick-up only, Fierro said, adding that in general pick-up is preferred due to staffing limitations.
Other guidelines from the state Liquor Authority include that the vehicle used for delivery services has to be from a third-party delivery service or a vehicle owned and operated, or hired and operated by the licensee or its employee. A copy of the permit or license must be present in the vehicle.
Sales of off-premises alcoholic beverages must coincide with what the businesses’ normal on-premises hours of operations would be, according to the guidelines.