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Bars, restaurants have strong reaction to new alcohol regulations

Some leaders in the restaurant industry feel the new regulations will add costs, in a time, when more challenges are not needed.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — New regulations on bars, taverns and restaurants in how they serve alcohol went into effect Friday.

Customers can only be served alcohol if they’re seated and ordering food. Governor Andrew Cuomo says the change is intended to crackdown on issues of social distancing. But many bars, restaurants and taverns, now have to deal with the impacts.

The New York State Brewers Association says these new regulations came as a complete surprise.

"We were all shocked, I got a text message from a friend and said did you hear that the governor announced this and I said I’m not sure that’s true," said Christopher Ericson, the association's  president. 

He says the regulations will put more stress on an industry that’s been under a lot of stress throughout the pandemic.

Guidance from the State Liquor Authority says anyone who purchases alcohol must be seated and a food item must be bought at the same time when the first alcoholic beverage or beverages are bought.

But, the SLA also allows for shareable food items to be bought – as long as they would sufficiently serve the number of people in the party.

Still, the state Brewers Association says the change, in many cases, will add extra cost.

"Tangibly speaking the mandate now is that there has to be table service that you can’t do walk up service so these places are going to have to put more staff on or they’re going to have to get the bartender’s out from behind the bar to wait on people," Ericson said.

There is also the reality that many bars and taverns don’t serve food, but will have to now.

The new regulations also say that manufacturers with on-premise service such as breweries and distilleries, snacks will be allowed. For restaurants and taverns something closer to a meal is required.

On Friday, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul responded to the criticism.

"You only need to look at the other states physically see what young people are doing gathering and now they’re ending up in hospitals increasing the rate of infection our desire is to get this economy back going again this is just a precaution the governor and health experts thought was necessary," she said.

The state Brewers Association admits it’s not sure what to do to address congregating at bars and restaurants, but that a broad brush is not fair and that these issues should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

"They’re really going to have to scramble to open up today and I think that’s the other thing that’s really shocking to this whole thing is this came down yesterday late morning early afternoon we got guidance from the state 9:30, 10 o’clock last night and now we have to be in full compliance today," Ericson said.

Some restaurants are already changing their menu in order to comply with the new mandate.

To give customers more options, Lafayette Brewing in Buffalo is now offering fish sticks, pretzel fries and gnocci at low prices.

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