Q&A with NYS Liquor Authority on new alcohol service rule requiring food order

Food and Drink

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — If you’re confused about the no alcohol service without food rules, you’re not alone.

That’s why the New York State Liquor Authority is hoping to shed some clarity on the situation, for businesses and customers alike.

The NYSLA has released some more information regarding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent order mandating that all New York state’s restaurants and bars could only serve patrons alcohol if they were ordering food too. The order also said there could be no standing bar service.

“All establishments must only serve alcohol to people who are also ordering food,” Gov. Cuomo said last week. “The concept here was bars and restaurants would be allowed to do outdoor dining. That is a dining situation. You go with several people, you sit at a table and you have a meal. That would limit the exposure to the people at that table and then the tables are socially distanced. That’s if you’re eating a meal. If you’re not eating a meal and you’re just drinking, then it’s just an outdoor bar and people are mingling and they’re not isolated and individual tables, and that’s what we’re seeing. Also, no walk-up bar service — all service at bar tops must be only for seated patrons who are socially distanced by six feet.”

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Below is a list of questions and explanations listed on the NYS Liquor Authority website.

Q: I operate a restaurant or bar, and I understand that I must serve sandwiches, soups, or “other foods” when a patron orders an alcoholic beverage, can you tell me what constitutes “other foods?”

A: “Other foods” 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, a bag of chips bowl of nuts, or candy alone are not.  

Q: I am a manufacturer with on premises privileges, do I need to make sandwiches, soups, and other similar foods available?

 A: Only to the extent you have a separate on premises license (tavern, restaurant, etc.) at your manufacturing premises.  If you have only a manufacturing license, you must provide patrons the ability to order, at a minimum, finger foods like chips, cheese and crackers, or pretzels. 

 Q: Must a patron order food with each alcoholic beverage ordered?

A: No, as long as food is ordered at the time of initial order of any alcoholic beverages that is sufficient in substance (see above) and is also of a quantity sufficient to serve the number of patrons who are present and being served alcohol.

Again, the purpose of this policy is to ensure that patrons are enjoying a sit-down dining experience, and not a drinking or bar-type experience which often tends to be problematic from a public health perspective.  

Q: Can I use a food truck or other third-party business to fulfill the food requirement under this guidance?

A: No, if the ABC Law requires that food be made available under your license, then that food must be available on your premises to be ordered – it cannot be delivered at the time or order, and a patron should not have to leave the premises to get it;  additionally, the ABC Law prohibits a second business from operating on a licensed premises.

A food truck may be located in an unlicensed parking lot area; however, if it becomes apparent that use of a food truck creates too much traffic and lack of social distancing (on the premises or at the truck), you should discontinue its use immediately.  

Q: Can a patron order an item to-go and order an alcoholic beverage to drink while waiting?

A: No, that is not an on-premises dining experience.  A takeout customer should be encouraged to call ahead and/or wait off the premises for his/her to-go order and leave with the food and drink, consistent with our guidance on takeout service since March 2020 which remains unchanged, and with DOH’s interim dining guidance.

Q: Can a patron order only a dessert item along with an alcoholic beverage?

 A: Yes, so long as the dessert item is a substantial item, such as a piece of cake/pie, an ice cream sundae, etc.; it should not be only a drink with whip cream, a cookie, a piece of candy, etc.

As with all question as to the food standard, please keep in mind the purpose of this policy as described above.  

 Q: I have a club license under the ABC Law, must I serve food to my patrons in accordance with this guidance? 

 A: No, a club licensee is not required to make food available under the ABC Law. Please look at your license certificate to ensure your license is in fact a “club” license under the ABC Law and not instead a tavern, restaurant, or other type of license. If food is available at your club, you are encouraged to serve it in accordance with the SLA Guidance in furtherance of its public health policy.

Q: Must I sell an item of food to accompany the order or may I provide it as complimentary?

 A: While a charge is not necessarily required for the food, you must have a record that food was ordered with drinks, so bills/checks need to reflect the food that was ordered and served. Further, you should not provide food that is shared among parties.

Q: Must I force customers to eat a food item?

 A: Food must be ordered and served.  We cannot require you to force someone to eat what they have ordered, but again, licensees are required to serve in a manner consistent with the purpose of this policy, and if customers are not at the premises to enjoy a sit-down dining experience, serving them alcohol is a violation. If it is evident to you that a patron intends to circumvent the policy, you should not continue to serve them.

Q: I understand that counter service is limited, does that mean that customers may not sit at my lunch counter or bar?

 A: No, patrons may continue to sit at a bar or counter in the same manner as is required under the DOH interim guidances, e.g., parties of no more than 10, 6-foot distance between parties, etc.  

MORE | Gov. Cuomo clarifies outdoor dining guidelines, alcohol service restrictions

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