For bars and restaurants in Brooklyn, the temporary legality of to-go drinks meant the difference between surviving the pandemic and having to shut down.

On Wednesday, at Therapy Wine Bar 2.0 in Bed-Stuy, Governor Kathy Hochul announced new efforts to support the recovery of restaurants and bars, including the proposal to permanently legalize to-go drinks, a pandemic-era allowance that expired in June 2021.

On top of that, Hochul is proposing an increase in funding for the State Liquor Authority — to the tune of $2 million — in order to double the SLA workforce and expedite the procedures for approving new liquor license applications, and modernize the application process.

This would shave months off of the current license processing time, which stands at 20-26 weeks and still happens through a decades-old system of hard-copy applications.

Hochul’s proposal also aims to eliminate time-consuming requirements for applicants, including requests for the current citizenship status, financial documentation and personal information of minority stakeholders.

The proposal announcement comes after Hochul signed a bill in December that allows for restaurants and bars to obtain temporary liquor licenses while they wait for their official license, allowing often vital streams of income. Previously, only establishments outside of the five boroughs had that option.

“This is just one of several steps we are taking to help small businesses come back from the pandemic stronger than ever before,” Hochul told the crowd at Therapy Wine Bar 2.0.

Angela Terry, owner of Therapy Wine Bar 2.0. Photo: supplied.

Therapy Wine Bar 2.0, which opened its doors in November 2021, was one of the businesses that benefited from a temporary license, owner Angela Terry said.

“Before that, it was very challenging to navigate, not only being new and getting the word out to let people know we’re here, but also to do all of that without a liquor license.”

Therapy Wine Bar 2.0 serves wine, beer, brunch, a list of cognac-centric cocktails and housemade Sorrel, a West Indies drink inspired by Terry’s heritage.

If the SLA approves to-go beverages, Terry said she’d bring back her frozen wine slushies, a fan favorite at her previous location.

“Drinks to-go is really good a way for restaurants to market their brand,” Terry said. “It just helps businesses to be able to say, ‘Hey, I’m here. And maybe you want to come back and eat our good food next time, too’.”

Hochul’s proposal would not change the law against drinking out of open containers in public. But, unlike 2020, purchase of food would not be required with the purchase of a drink.

Governor Kathy Hochul. Photo: supplied.

Not everyone is a fan of the program, though. The Metropolitan Package Store Association, which represents liquor stores, opposes legislation that permits to-go and delivery cocktails, arguing it will harm the 3,500 small liquor store businesses that have also had their struggles throughout the pandemic.

“We are just trying to survive. We are among the last businesses on Main Street,” Executive Director Michael Correra told The New York Post.

“The governor has decided drinks to go will help the restaurant industry without hurting us. We disagree. We weren’t invited to the press conference. No one has heard our side.”

Hochul said she had directed SLA to consult with restaurant and bar industry representatives and stakeholders to review existing laws and identify other needless barriers for business owners. 

“We want to hear people’s experiences on how we can make this be very successful and leave no business behind,” Hochul said.

This proposal comes just one month after the SLA ruled that movie theaters are allowed to serve booze, another one of Hochul’s proposals to generate as many avenues of income for businesses as possible.

“We have to get back our mojo and get the New York City vibe that makes us so proud of where we live,” Hochul said.

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Miranda Levingston

Covering everything Brooklyn. Twitter: @MLevNews

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  1. Exactly why would someone want to walk around — or drive! — with a drink, when it’s illegal to slug a bottle of beer out in the open? This is such a bad idea, it hurts my brain that pols are even considering it. Then again, “anything goes” liberals are in charge.

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