The state's directive that restaurants and bars can only sell alcohol with a food order has venues getting creative
ALBANY — There's the "Cuomo Cheese Plate" for $1 at Irondequoit Beer Company outside Rochester, or the "Cuomo Chips" for $1 in Saratoga.
Sickenberger Lane in Utica said on Facebook it has “our house made potato chips all night long to be served with your alcohol or non alcohol beverage purchase.”
The reason for the fast-food priced menus?
Bars are trying to work around, and in many cases protest, an order issued Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that requires a patron to buy food in order to be served alcohol.
The goal, Cuomo said, is to ensure that outdoor dining is just that — dining, not "block party bars." The order seeks to ensure people are seated at tables rather than congregating in crowded areas in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
"The law never allowed outdoor bars," Cuomo said Friday. "They took the outdoor dining provision and the additional space and turned into outdoor bars."
But the decision has drawn a sharp and at times snarky response from bar owners, many of whom say they have diligently followed the state's COVID-19 restrictions and fear their livelihood is at stake if they can't sell booze.
"DINE IN you DO have to order food. We are now offering the 'Cuomo Cheese Plate' for $1. But we also have other AMAZING food too," the Irondequoit Beer Company wrote on Facebook.
The State Liquor Authority issued guidance Thursday that attempted to lay out what is required of restaurants and bars under Cuomo's new order.
Each bar, restaurant or brewery has to serve food that is "consistent with the food availability requirement" of their liquor license.
That means a tavern, for example, has to serve sandwiches, soups or similar items, at a minimum. A brewery or winery, on the other hand, can get away with serving cheese, fruits, breads, crackers and the like.
Harvey's Restaurant and Bar in Saratoga enjoyed a viral wave of publicity when it first began offering $1 "Cuomo Chips" a few hours after the governor made his announcement Thursday.
After the restaurant found out that wouldn't satisfy the food requirement, it made a quick change: Now the Cuomo Chips come with salsa. Now, Harvey's is offering a $1 flatbread with field greens, roasted beets and goat cheese, too.
"While the sudden regulations imposed on businesses are difficult to work with- it is our responsibility to work within the confines of these decisions," Harvey's wrote on its Facebook page. "And if possible — with some levity."
The Lafayette Brewing Company in Buffalo originally offered a $1 menu that included items like "just a few grapes." That apparently wasn't in compliance with the order; Now, Lafayette is offering a $1.50 menu that includes gnocchi and pretzel fries.
The Home Team Pub in Liverpool, near Syracuse, has a similar menu, too: $1 will get you a "spoonful of rice pilaf" or the "smallest milkshake in Liverpool."
Under normal circumstances, all bars and taverns already must serve food in order to get a liquor license that allows them to serve on premises, though they are not usually prohibited from serving alcoholic drinks to those who don't order food.
Cuomo's administration has pointed to COVID-related rules in other states that are even more restrictive than New York's.
In New Jersey, indoor spaces in bars and restaurants remain closed, for example. Massachusetts has kept bars and nightclubs closedthroughout the coronavirus pandemic.
"For some much needed context here is what other states are doing with their bars," Cuomo senior adviser and spokesman Rich Azzopardi tweeted Saturday alongside a list of restrictions in nearby states. "As always stay smart, socially distance, wash your hands and wear a mask."