N.Y. breweries face new reality as the state emergency declaration ends

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo ended the New York State Emergency Declarations, which stopped alcohol to-go sales. Restaurants and other establishments sold alcohol in to-go cups and containers amid the pandemic to offset not having people in their dining rooms.

Frustration and confusion remain because bar and restaurant owners were caught off guard by the removal of the service.

“It ended the same way they started it abruptly without any real heads up,” Mark Neumann, president of Upstate Brewing Company, said.

Legislators were also surprised by the abrupt change. They thought the Governor’s office would give business owners a warning before it expired. The order was put in place early in the pandemic to help local businesses through a tough year, allowing them to sell to customers while they were at home.

“It is a negative impact for the restaurants that have been struggling. That was a nice benefit they were able to do,” Sen. Tom O’Mara, N.Y. District 58 (R), added.

Upstate Brewing Company in Elmira Heights regularly sells pre-packaged alcohol in cans or growlers, so the end of the order did not directly affect them. There are other benefits in the executive order that served as additional income for the brewery.

“Directly, alcohol-to-go in and of itself did not affect us, but everything else incorporated with what ended yesterday did,” Neumann continued.

Now, the local brewery cannot deliver or ship their beers. They also had to remove an additional outdoor seating area, which they added to accommodate distancing rules.

One industry objected to the order when it was put in place in 2020, saying it hurt their business.
“There was some pushback, by the liquor store industry,” Sen. O’Mara said.

Albany and the Legislature are trying to strike a deal with the two competing industries. A compromise has yet to leave the committee, but Sen. O’Mara hopes it will be a top priority when the Legislature is back in session.

“It is something that we’ve been looking at trying to come to a compromise in the legislature, between the liquor stores and the restaurant industry, and I’m supportive of doing that,” Sen. O’Mara added.

Still, business owners like Neumann are frustrated because their establishments are far from back to normal. While capacity limits are no longer in place, people are still trickling back to in-person dining and events.

“Even today like things aren’t back to 100 percent by any means. Still having these additional avenues where you can sell people beer, especially if they’re not coming directly to the brewery itself, is huge,” Neumann concluded.

Cuomo declared the virus an emergency on March 7, 2020 and put emergency powers in place, including the alcohol-to-go policy.

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