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Booze is Back For Takeout in NYC

5th Avenue frozen margarita in Park Slope courtesy of Robert Smith

JULIAN ABRAHAM, HOST: New Yorkers will be able to order take-out cocktails again. Governor Kathy Hochul says it will soon be legal to grab a boozy beverage and stroll the sidewalks. As Uptown Radio’s Eliot Schiaparelli reports, bars have been pushing the return of one of the few perks of the pandemic.

ELIOT SCHIAPARELLI, BYLINE: There is a dive bar just two blocks from Central Park. It’s called Bob’s Your Uncle. Ryan Kehoe is behind the bar pouring drinks and casually chatting with patrons about the playlist. He says take-out Margaritas and Palomas kept the bar alive in the early days of the pandemic.

RYAN KEHOE: “It’s kind of refreshing to be able to give people to go drinks. I feel like this is New York City take a drink to go and also it’s covid times and there’s something nice - I got to go drinks from other places and it was nice to walk around with a drink openly it was like a New Orleans feeling.”

SCHIAPARELLI: One regular sitting at the bar, MJ Brown says to-go cocktails were one of the few things he could do to support the business during the pandemic. But even now, he says New York needs the pick me up.

MJ BROWN: “Well we would love for the city to be more rowdy for god sakes. Geeze it was supposed to be the city that never slept but it’s sleeping at 9 o’clock in the evening now.”

SCHIAPARELLI: A sleepier New York is fine with some people. Opponents of to-go cocktails have been arguing against the legislation saying legalizing them again leads to rowdy bars, public intoxication, and street noise. One of the most ardent opponents of the proposal was the liquor store lobby who say it will hurt their businesses. But Yajaira Tapia, the manager of Manhattan Valley Wines and Spirits says she’s not so sure.

YAJAIRA TAPIA: “I’m in favor of it. It’s a different sector. If someone is buying a $15 cocktail at a to-go bar that’s not someone who’s going to want to spend $30 to buy their own and make it at home, and they could make 50 cocktails. It’s a price discrepancy”

SCHIAPARELLI: The current plan for “to-go” cocktails sets some rules to ensure that street drinks and liquor stores cater to different audiences. Bars and restaurants will not be allowed to sell full bottles, and they’ll have to serve food with their take-out drinks. In her original budget proposal, Governor Kathy Hochul pushed for a permanent legalization of take-out beverages calling it the most popular item in her budget. But the current plan would legalize to-go drinks for 3 years and then lawmakers would have to revisit the issue.

But even with the popularity of the option, some bartenders say it’s too much work. David Libispere works at 67 Orange, an upscale cocktail bar in Harlem.

DAVID LIBISPERE: “It helped during the pandemic because we did not have the indoor seating, so we could spend more time making them but right now we’re extremely busy, so we don’t have time to do all of this during a shift.”

SCHIAPARELLI: Libispere says even when the state legalizes to-go cocktails his bar will still focus on dine-in.

The plan for to-go cocktails is part of the state budget negotiations happening right now so it still needs to be finalized. But New Yorkers will probably be able to spend their summer drinking Palomas in the park.

Eliot Schiaparelli, Columbia Radio News.

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