The State of New York is planning to make alcohol to-go a permanent law. This move will further increase alcohol availability, thus further increasing the risk to health, social capital and economy.
The measure to make alcohol to-go permanent was unveiled as part of the State Budget Bill Governor Kathy Hochul is negotiating with legislative leaders.
This law allows already licensed alcohol sales businesses to sell alcohol products for take-out and delivery. According to the proposal, any purchase must be “accompanied by a substantial food item.” But it remains unclear what a “substantial food item” means.
State budget bills are typically printed after the governor and legislative leaders have reached an agreement, but a full budget deal hasn’t yet been announced.
Alcohol to-go in New York State
New York State used to have common sense limits on alcohol availability. For instance alcohol to-go was not allowed.
But during the pandemic, alcohol companies managed to pressure former Governor Andrew Cuomo to amend the State Liquor Authority rules to allow restaurants to distribute alcoholic beverages for takeout and delivery, as of March 16, 2020. Though Governor Cuomo had granted two extensions to the temporary legalization, it ultimately expired on June 27 of 2022
But as of April 2022 alcohol to-go is set to stay long-term. New York Governor Kathy Hochul has now officially signed off on the reinstatement of the takeout alcohol law, according to NBC New York reporting. It will be in effect for three years. But the new law will have to go through the legislative process before it can take effect because it is not considered an emergency regulation.
With regard to the vagueness of the “substantial food item” stipulation, the State Liquor Authority issued an advisory, warning that “Obvious efforts to circumvent the law for example an unreasonably small portion of soup, a serving of canned beans, a handful of lettuce, or charging a small extra fee for an alcoholic beverage in lieu of a food item not actually ordered or delivery will be treated as a violation of the law,” according to Tasting Table.
The State Liquor Authority also established that in order to avoid creating a competitive market for liquor stores, restaurant owners cannot sell alcohol by the bottle or can. As is the case for substantial food items, clever attempts to work around the rule by transferring a full bottle of wine or liquor into another container are considered violations. If restaurants want to offer the option of alcohol to-go to their customers, both sides will have to abide by the extra set of rules.
Corporate lobbying yields win for alcohol industry, loss for public health and safety
Alcohol to-go is a result of relentless alcohol industry lobbying to weaken U.S. state alcohol policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Big Alcohol’s push to weaken existing alcohol policy systems across federal states has often succeeded and states have extended or even made permanent these weakened alcohol policies. New York State is one of many states that choose to put private profit interests of public health and safety interests.
As of December 2021, and overview shows the mushrooming of alcohol availability increases.
- At the beginning of the pandemic, 31 states included cocktails-to-go as a temporary measure.
- In 15 states the measure was extended by two to five years.
- Another 16 states made cocktails-to-go a permanent law.
- At least nine states passed laws allowing direct home delivery of alcohol.
Alcohol harm in the United States
As Movendi International previously reported, alcohol harm in the U.S. has been rising due to the products and practices of the alcohol industry. The COVID-19 pandemic made the problem even worse.
- Alcohol consumption increased by 14% in 2020 compared to 2019, as per a JAMA Network Journal study from September 2020.
- A study by RAND published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that alcohol use problems increased among both men and women (69% and 49%) respectively.
- “Using alcohol to cope” was associated with an initially higher level of alcohol problems for both men and women.
- The latest findings from a brand new study on JAMA Network, found alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. increased by about 25% from 2019 to 2020.
It is imperative that U.S. states prioritize the health of citizens instead of private profits of the alcohol industry to reduce the widespread harm caused by alcohol products.