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Cuomo clarifies restaurant order, says outdoor dining never meant ‘outdoor drinking’

2020-07-22

ALBANY — Talk about a buzzkill.

Gov. Cuomo sought to clarify the state’s outdoor dining rules Friday as pubs and bars across the state crafted some creative ways to skirt his no food, no booze policy.

A day earlier, the governor said establishments would no longer be allowed to offer “walk-up bar service” and can only serve alcohol to patrons seated at a table and eating a meal.

Cuomo said the seemingly new edict meant to stem the spread of coronavirus and cut down on crowds congregating outside bars and pubs was always on the menu.

“We allowed outdoor dining. We never allowed outdoor drinking, it was outdoor dining,” he said during an afternoon conference call with reporters.

“Establishments that have turned it into outdoor bars where you have these congregations of people, sometimes 100 large, that are just drinking outside, that’s not what outdoor dining is and that was never allowed,” he added.

Massive crowds have congregated outside bars and restaurants across the five boroughs in recent weeks after outdoor dining was allowed as part of the second phase of the state’s reopening plan.

“That was a perversion of the law,” Cuomo griped.

On Thursday, the governor reiterated that outdoor dining with socially distanced tables, servers and patrons wearing masks when not seated is fine.

Cuomo blamed local government for failing to enforce the rules.

The State Liquor Authority issued new guidance on the rules for bars, restaurants, breweries and wineries on Friday that clarified that customers have to be seated at a table and eating in order to be served alcohol.

Take-out booze, which has been allowed throughout the pandemic, is still allowed, as long as food is part of the order.

Some upstate eateries responded by crafting tongue-in-cheek dollar menus or adding

Harvey’s Irish Pub in upstate Saratoga Springs is adding $1 “Cuomo Chips” to every order to ensure drinkers are in compliance.

“Here’s your food Cuomo,” owner Matthew Brian Bagley wrote on Facebook. “I’ll buy your first chip.”

Jake Hafner’s Restaurant & Tavern in North Syracuse is selling a variety of $1 “compliance” items, including a “handful o’ croutons,” a bag of chips, and a four-ounce cup of whipped cream, syracuse.com reported.

Cuomo’s crackdown includes a “three strikes and you’re closed” rule meaning an eatery will be shut down and potentially have their liquor license suspended if it racks up enough social distancing violations.

Last week, the state Liquor Authority stripped the famed White Horse Tavern of its liquor license for what state officials called “numerous” violations of coronavirus social-distancing rules.

Cops and officials repeatedly found “large crowds directly outside the establishment, without masks or practicing social distancing” over the course of several weeks.