Alcohol Update from Pesetsky & Bookman

By Pesetsky & Bookman

SLA has provided guidance in three important areas involving liberalized alcohol rules for bars and restaurants in response to COVID-19

Robert and Max Bookman of Pesetsky & Bookman, the Alliance's general and legislative counsel and experts in alcohol licensing, have the following update for Alliance members:

Thanks in part to The Alliance's urging, the State Liquor Authority has provided guidance in three important areas involving liberalized alcohol rules for bars and restaurants in response to COVID-19: 

  • Alcohol pickup and delivery. SLA has issued new guidance that allows bars and restaurants to sell alcohol to customers for pickup or delivery, under the following conditions:
    • The alcohol must either be in its original container (e.g., a sealed bottle of wine) or in a sealed container (e.g., a mixed cocktail poured into a to-go cup with a tight fitting lid). 
    • Wine and spirits must be sold together with food.  Beer and cider does not need to be sold alongside food.  So a customer must make a food order in order to buy wine or spirits, but does not need to make a food order to buy beer or cider.  The food must be consistent with the menu that you originally submitted to SLA.
    • If you are a bar or restaurant delivering alcohol yourself (i.e., not via a third-party service) it can be done on foot, by bicycle, or in any vehicle owned, leased, or rented by your business or an employee, as long as you have a copy of your liquor license in the vehicle. 
  • Safekeeping.  If you do make the decision to temporarily close your doors, you are not required to place your license in safekeeping with SLA, even though under normal circumstances you would be required to.  This suspension of the safekeeping requirement will last for 90 days, unless it gets extended in the future.
  • Returns.  Alcohol purchased by a bar or restaurant between 3/1/20 and 3/17/20 may be returned to the wholesaler or manufacturer who you purchased the alcohol from in return for credit, at the option of the wholesaler or manufacturer.  Wholesalers and manufacturers are not required to accept returns for credit, but if they do, they are required to do so for everyone.  In other words, wholesalers and manufacturers are not allowed to pick and choose which bars and restaurants they accept returns for credit from, and which they do not.
  • The new guidance on alcohol pickup and delivery and safekeeping can be accessed here.
  • The new advisory on returns can be accessed here.
  • While this is a positive development that we thank the Governor and SLA for, it is only a small piece of a larger Mitigation and Support Plan that the Alliance has proposed to elected officials.  For example, we continue to urge the City and State authorities to utilize their emergency powers to mandate that fees charged by third-party delivery platforms to our local restaurants should be capped at a maximum 10% of the order.  Companies like Seamless and Grubhub should not get a windfall profit from this crisis.
  • Follow @thenycalliance and @maxbookman on Twitter for additional updates

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