Want a beer? First, you have to buy this cold cheese sandwich.
All across Bushwick, bars are finding unique ways to comply with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ruling that drink orders must be paired with substantive food.
The guidelines are strict and evolving while the communication to bar owners is slow and muffled. According to Cuomo’s State Liquor Authority (SLA), bars must serve sandwiches, soups or “other foods” to accompany patrons’ first drink orders.
The SLA defines “other foods” as “foods which are similar in quality and substance to sandwiches and soups.” The organization states that salad, wings or hot dogs would qualify, but a bag of chips, a bowl of nuts or candy alone would not.
So, Bushwick bars, few of which are equipped with full kitchen staff, have had to scramble to find ways to put food on the table.
We decided to feature some of our favorite creative solutions that bar owners have implemented to comply with Cuomo’s orders. Since the orders are no joke and the list of New York bars losing their liquor license continues to grow, a couple of bar owners requested anonymity.
With that in mind, the attentive reader will no doubt be able to figure out where to find each of the bars.
Without further ado, here we go.
Near the L train stop at Dekalb Avenue, there’s a bar appropriately serving Cuomo Cups O’Noodles.
At a watering hole just a few blocks away, PopTarts are on the menu.
At Mood Ring on Myrtle Avenue, drinkers can choose between a hot dog or a plate of dumplings.
Stop by the Lone Wolf to snag a rolled-up cheese sandwich. It pairs nicely with a Tecate.
Funny, right? Bar owners don’t always think so, even though they are serving these items. In fact, all of the bar owners who were contacted by the Bushwick Daily for this story declined to comment using their name, often citing fear that the SLA might come knocking and shut them down.
“Any publicity is bad publicity right now,” an anonymous bar owner told the Bushwick Daily.
Many bar owners, who are just trying to keep their businesses alive amid the coronavirus pandemic, are upset and confused by Cuomo’s order.
In July, Abby Ehmann, the owner of East Village dive bar Lucky, started a state-wide petition calling for Cuomo to reverse the order.
“If we, as business owners, are able to maintain social distancing, with tables six feet apart, and require that all our customers be seated, we can easily help contain the spread of the virus,” Ehmann’s petition states. “SEATING NOT EATING is a far more elegant solution. It also does not require additional staffing or other expenditures that place an additional burden on an industry that is already suffering severe financial hardship.”
The petition has already gained nearly 5,000 signatures. However, Ehmann’s bar has since had its liquor license suspended, EaterNY reports.
A week after Ehmann started the petition, SLA representatives reported to her bar to observe if all of the customers had ordered food with their drinks. After, Ehmann received a paper notice from the SLA. And without further warning, the bar’s liquor license was suspended.
Other bars, including Bushwick’s Boobie Trap, have suggested that customers should reach out to state and city officials.
“FEEL FREE TO WRITE OR CALL DEBLASIO AND/OR CUOMO and tell them to focus on mask-wearing not destroying small business and the restaurant/bar industry!,” Boobie Trap posted to Facebook.
Cuomo, however, has continued to defend the order as an effective way to restrict the amount of congregating that occurs in bars and other drinking environments. The food order is just one of many regulations Cuomo has created to keep bars from causing an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Cuomo isn’t messing around. As of August 17, the state has suspended 148 businesses’ liquor licenses for violating a coronavirus-related regulation.
“My message to bar owners is the same: this is about protecting the health of your employees, your patrons, and the public writ large,” Cuomo said in a statement. “These are serious violations, and we are taking aggressive action because there are simply no more excuses for non-compliance.”
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