Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on a conference call on Thursday, announced new regulations for bars and restaurants to ensure they are complying with state social distancing and face covering orders.
Statewide, these establishments will be subject to new requirements that they must only serve alcohol to people who are ordering and eating food, and that all service at bar tops must only be for seated patrons who are socially distanced by 6 feet or separated by physical barriers.
Under current law, only establishments that serve food are permitted to serve alcoholic beverages.
Citizens who see violations or are concerned can report complaints, including photos, to the State Liquor Authority at www.sla.ny.gov.
The governor said state officials have received thousands of complaints about people gathered at eateries and not following the safety guidelines.
“New Yorkers are outraged at these establishments,” he said.
“This is a question of public health. … New Yorkers paid a dear price for COVID-19, and they are equally upset with these violations,” he added.
Cuomo also announced a “Three Strikes and You're Closed” initiative in New York City. Any establishment that receives three violations will be closed for business. Egregious violations can result in immediate loss of liquor license or closure before a third strike. Additionally, any establishment facing disciplinary charges by the State Liquor Authority will have its name and location posted publicly and updated on a weekly basis.
If the state is alerted to similar noncompliance in other regions of the state, these restrictions will be extended to those areas immediately.
The governor also announced that travel form compliance went up to 92% after the state announced fines for failure to complete the form. Earlier this week, Cuomo announced out-of-state travelers from the 22 designated states with the highest infection rates must provide local authorities with contact information upon entering New York to help enforce quarantining, or they'll face a fine of up to $2,000 if they don't supply that information.
"As we continue our science-based phased reopening, the number of hospitalizations and our rate of positive tests remain steady and low," Cuomo said. "But we need to remember our success fighting this virus is a function of our own actions. Mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing – basic as they may seem – are critical to controlling the spread of this virus. Especially now that we are seeing spikes in cases throughout the country, this is not the time to let up – especially on compliance enforcement. We know the prescription and we know it works – we just need to be smart and do it."
In a second conference call on Thursday, Cuomo said his phased reopening applied to outdoor dining.
“We never said outdoor bars,” he stressed. “We were not opening outdoor bars. We were opening outdoor dining. We never said we're opening block-party bars. (We’re) opening outdoor dining, which means people come to eat; which means people would go sit at a table, stay at the table, only be exposed to the people at the table. And the tables were socially distanced. That's what we approved. We did not approve outdoor bars, where you set up tables for people to place drinks, and then you have 100 people mingling outside in a block-party format. That’s not what we approved. We never did.
“So, outdoor dining, if they think that outdoor dining meant an outdoor bar, they're wrong. And that is the exact behavior that we're seeing all across the nation, that is causing an increase in the virus. So, that was never authorized in the first place.
“Takeout drinks were authorized. But the takeout drinks were, you can purchase a container, and then you have a container law. And you can go home and you can drink it. But there was never an authorization of outside congregate drinking. That was never authorized.”
The number of new cases, percentage of tests that were positive and other data points are available at forward.ny.gov.