COVID-19: Order For ‘Substantial Food’ Sold With Alcohol Dates Back Decades, Cuomo Says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the state’s edict that requires ordering “substantial” food when drinking at bars and restaurants, noting that it’s been a law dating back decades.

Harvey's Restaurant and Bar started a trend that has been reversed by the State Liquor Authority.
Harvey's Restaurant and Bar started a trend that has been reversed by the State Liquor Authority. Photo Credit: Harvey's Restaurant and Bar

“In New York State, we have one license for bars and restaurants, there’s not a separate bar and restaurant license, unlike most other states,” Cuomo said during a COVID-19 briefing in Manhattan this week.

The law dates back to 1964.

“When we reopened bars and restaurants it was for outdoor dining, not outdoor drinking,” he said. “Any bar by our current law … our existing law, has to have food available. There is no bar that only serves alcohol.”

Cuomo went on to say that “to be a bar, you had to have food available — soups, sandwiches, etc. More than just hors d’oeuvres, chicken wings. You had to have some substantive food — the lowest level of substantive food were sandwiches.”

The governor’s comments came after the State Liquor Authority (SLA) has updated its guidance to require restaurants to sell a “substantial” food item with every alcohol order after a clever pub owner started selling $1 “Cuomo Chips” upstate in Saratoga Springs to circumvent the new order.

“This is a law going back to the old days,” Cuomo said. “The bar had to have food available, soups, sandwiches — even Cuomo chips were not enough.”

Cuomo made note that New York has a number of laws in place that have been violated by some during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s illegal, so there are laws to enforce besides the food law,” he said. “But everyone knew what the difference was between dining and drinking. It’s a fundamental difference.

“With a bar license, you have to have for available. There’s no bar that can just serve alcohol and that goes back a long time.”

During his press briefing, Cuomo once again called on local governments and police agencies to enforce social distancing and break up large gatherings.

“We need the local government to do it,” he said. “The NYPD, we need the Nassau police, we need the Suffolk police in the Hamptons, we need the Erie County police, we need the Albany police to do their job.”

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