State Pols Angered by Lack of Social Distancing, Reconsider to-go Alcohol Sales for Bars

Posted on: June 15th, 2020 at 5:00 am by

Photo: EV Grieve

By now you’ve seen it. Footage of St. Mark’s Place flooded with people, drinking and socializing as if on Bourbon Street. Nary a face mask or furlong of distance between.

These scenes in the East Village over the weekend – and also in Hell Square on the Lower East Side – went viral with pundits questioning effects on a potential resurgence of COVID-19 infections. Perhaps it was because, or in spite of, Governor Cuomo’s assessment last Thursday that New York now has the lowest transmission rate in the nation.

What concerned residents are focused on is the to-go liquor concept, legislation introduced at the outset of lockdown to help bars and restaurants cope with lost sales. Businesses could offer patrons takeaway drinks with food ordered. What’s happening now, though, is just loitering and drinking on the sidewalk. Cops aren’t really enforcing the law against open containers in public, either.

It’s become a free-for-all. Politicians are now responding thanks to prevalent St. Mark’s footage.

Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents this neighborhood in the State Senate, came down hard, and lambasted the situation. As did the Governor, who threatened on Twitter, “Don’t make me come down there.”

Below is Hoylman’s response:

New Yorkers are dying every day from COVID-19. It’s dangerous and irresponsible to abandon social distancing while the pandemic continues to rage.

As the Senator who represents much of the heart of Manhattan, I know small businesses are hurting. But there’s no excuse for the large crowds we’ve seen congregating on St. Mark’s Place and elsewhere in Manhattan. In the middle of a pandemic, that’s putting lives at risk.

A liquor license is a privilege that comes with a significant responsibility to protect the public interest. The State Liquor Authority (SLA) should immediately bring inspectors to Manhattan to assess the situation and work to enforce open container laws.

If these violations of social distancing continue, Governor Cuomo should immediately reconsider his executive order permitting take-out and delivery alcohol service. As the Senate sponsor of legislation that would extend this executive order for two years, I’m reassessing whether to amend it to limit it to alcohol delivery only and ban to go sales, to have the legislation apply only outside New York City, or to withdraw the bill altogether. In doing so, I will continue working closely with Community Boards and local stakeholders to determine the best way forward.

My bill was meant to be a lifeline for restaurants and bars facing extinction because of COVID-19, not an opportunity for these establishments to totally disregard open container laws and social distancing requirements. The failures of these establishments to follow the law will create a public health disaster, not to mention creating noise and quality of life issues.

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