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Cuomo tightens NYC rules to force bars to sell 'substantial' food

"Brandon Paul" (2020-07-27)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has tightened New York's outdoor dining rules to force bars to sell substantial amounts of food, and not just snacks, with drinks - a move that has been labeled a 'thumb in the eye' to an already crippled industry. 

On June 22, outdoor dining resumed in New York City which brought long-awaited relief to the hospitality industry and to the remaining residents eager to patronize them. 

At the time, Cuomo did not specify that only restaurants could provide the service. 

The city's bars, eager to finally make money again, leaped on the chance to set up high-top tables and chairs in designated street spaces. 

Most complied with social distancing rules and enforced them but some allowed large groups to gather outside which drew complaints from many and fears of a second wave of the virus.  

Groups had been gathering outside bars before then, when buying take-out drinks, and in parks and streets. 


Zellstoffwerk_Rosenthal_6.jpgCuomo on Tuesday. He has threatened to close all bars and restaurants and is forcing bars to sell 'substantial' amounts of food with alcoholic drinks which has sparked outrage among the hospitality industry


Cuomo is tightening the rules for bars which he says are not allowed to offer outdoor service at tables if people are only drinking, and now they must enforce 'substantial' food orders


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But last week, Cuomo tightened the rules to force bars and restaurants to serve food with drinks, in an apparent attempt to circumvent the social distancing problems. The bars responded with $1 or 50-cent menus, offering items like 'Cuomo chips' in a bowl or peanuts to meet the new rules but still draw in customers.

 The ever changing rules and lack of clarity is creating enormous challenges and concerns for small business owners who are in a crisis Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance

Now, the governor is clamping down on them again and ordering that they have to serve  a 'substantial' amount of food to people to be able to stay open. 

He also said on Tuesday that he never actually gave bars the green-light to offer outdoor service in the first place, a kick in the teeth to the thousands of bar owners across the city. 

The new guidance has confused and angered many. 

'The ever changing rules and lack of clarity is creating enormous challenges and concerns for small business owners who are in a crisis,' Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, told on Wednesday morning. 

He also called Cuomo's remark that he never gave bars permission to reopen 'inaccurate'. 

'All the terminology is off so it's difficult to understand what the Governor technically meant, again, one of the reasons why there's been so much confusion. 

'There are different types of liquor licenses. 

'If when he said bars he is referring to establishments with a tavern license (which have limited kitchen operations) then there was never anything that said they couldn't open…and even now they can if they meet the new food requirements,' he added. 

Many bars complied with social distancing while still allowing people to sit outside and drink

When Cuomo last week mandated that they sell food, bars improvised with cheap menus to still allow people to patronize them

While most bars have complied, others have not.

In Astoria, Queens, huge crowds have gathered in the streets, without masks, to party

The White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village lost its liquor license after failing to enforce the rules 

Bars started offering $1 menus to try to get around the rules when Cuomo enforced food with drinks

Bars took the menu enforcement in their stride and offered things like 'Cuomo fries' 

Cuomo claimed on Tuesday that there had been a 'disconnect' with the reopening rules and that he never intended for zpravy bars to set up tables and chairs outside, claiming instead that it was only ever meant for restaurants.

'Let's be clear.

Outdoor dining is now permitted statewide. Outside drinking is not,' he tweeted on Tuesday night. 

Twitter users criticized him for applying one set of rules to one side of the industry and another to bars. 

'I guess you can't get COVID if you're eating.

Who knew?!' one remarked. 

Another quipped: 'So let me get this straight, I can order dinner and drink anything and as much as I want. 

'But, if I go to the property next door 100 feet away and sit at that outside table provided by a bar that doesn't serve food I instantly become a superspreader.' 

Since the start of the pandemic, bars have been able to offer take-out food and drinks.

With nowhere for people to sit once they got their orders, it created a trend of people gathering in the street to consume food and alcohol. 

On June 22, the rules changed to allow outdoor dining but only at reduced capacity and if patrons were wearing masks unless sat at their table.  

Some have not obeyed the rules and have had their liquor licenses suspended indefinitely as a result. 

Now, there is a 'three strike' rule for businesses that flout the rules.