Bars restricted from selling chips with booze to get around Cuomo rule
This will really put a chip on New York bar owners’ shoulders.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made it even harder for cash-strapped watering holes and restaurants to churn back to life — by declaring a bag of chips is no longer enough to comply with the requirement they serve food with booze.
His State Liquor Authority reversed course with that revised edict posted late Tuesday night, which requires they sell more substantial food with alcoholic drinks to be in compliance with the recent executive order.
Cuomo last Thursday issued that rule, as well as a statewide ban on walk-up bar service, as part of his crackdown on violations of social-distancing rules.
According to the new SLA guidance, a bag of chips or nuts does not meet the food requirement, but “sandwiches, soups or other foods, whether fresh, processed, precooked or frozen,” do pass muster.
“Other foods,” according to the SLA, “are foods which are similar in quality and substance to sandwiches and soups; for example, salads, wings, or hotdogs would be of that quality and substance.”
“However,” the guidance says, “a bag of chips, bowl of nuts, or candy alone are not.”
That updated guidance appears to be in response to a clever upstate bar owner who added a $1 serving of “Cuomo Chips” to every initial drink order. The new rule actually contradicts what a Cuomo official said Friday about the chips, telling The Post that would comply with the food-requirement rule.
“The purpose of the requirement that food be sold with alcohol is to permit outside and limited indoor dining (outside of New York City), with alcoholic beverages, while restricting the congregating and mingling that arise in a bar service/drinking only environment,” the SLA said.
The new rule, the SLA tells restaurants and bars, is a public health measure aimed at preventing crowded booze fests that could spread COVID-19.
The agency adds, “A drinking, bar-type experience often involves or leads to mingling and other conduct that is non-compliant with social distancing and the use of face covering and is therefore not yet a safe activity during the current health emergency. The spikes/resurgence of COVID-19 cases that this has caused in other states is something that New York must avoid at all costs.”
The SLA says pub or restaurant owners should not be looking for a loophole.
Adam Humphrey, the co-owner of Harvey’s Restaurant and Bar in Saratoga Springs that introduced the “Cuomo Chips” on the menu, said the anti-chips rule is “just another hoop to jump through.”
“It’s definitely a burden on everybody. It’s a struggle and I don’t think it’s about people not complying,” said Humphrey, 28.
“Our chips come in frozen. They are kettle chips and we cook them,” said Humphrey who believed the chips were still in compliance with the new rules, but the SLA told The Post they weren’t.
Big Apple barkeeps on Wednesday slammed Cuomo for strict food rules.
Raffaello Van Couten, the owner of Dolly’s Swing and Dive Bar in Williamsburg, said when he heard about the new regulations, he and many other area bar owners’ first response was: “I can’t believe this is f–king happening.”
“It just seems it came out of left field for everyone,” he said. “Bottom line, it’s pissed off a lot of people.”
A bartender, who would only identify himself as Joe, at Turkey’s Nest Tavern in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, said, “We have to waste money on getting a hot dog machine, microwave — it makes no sense.”
“They’re making it [the rules] up on a whim, and pretty much everything they’re doing is targeting bars,” Joe griped.
Cuomo has gotten tough on liquor-licensed establishments after hordes of patrons started gathering outside Big Apple bars without practicing social distancing or wearing masks.
On Tuesday, the governor announced the SLA indefinitely suspended the liquor licenses of three restaurants and bars in Queens, including two in Astoria, that drew large crowds of partiers.
Cuomo, speaking on WAMC radio Wednesday, said, “We opened bars, restaurant for outdoor dining . . . What the bars did, was they turned outdoor dining into outdoor drinking and that’s what’s building these big crowds in front of these bars where you’re getting 100, 200 young people just drinking.”
Additional reporting by Julie Coleman
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