Governor Kathy Hochul might call it the most popular item in her budget, but to-go drinks don’t seem to be a crowd favorite with state lawmakers.

Both the Senate and Assembly’s Democratic majorities have released their state budget proposals ahead of final negotiations with Hochul’s office, and neither contain any mention of the measure the governor said would provide a needed boost to the restaurant industry, Gothamist reports.

“The Senate intentionally omits the Executive proposal to allow on-premises establishments to sell wine or liquor drinks for take-out or delivery,” the Senate Democrats’ budget plan says.

Meanwhile Mike Whyland, a spokesperson for Assembly Democrats, told Gothamist the item wasn’t included in the budget plan because it dealt with a policy issue, not finances.

“Generally we did not include policy in our budget proposal as we wanted to keep it a fiscal document,” Whyland said.

Governor Kathy Hochul at Bed-Stuy’s Therapy Wine Bar 2.0 announcing her plan to legalize to-go drinks. Photo: Supplied.

However, New York State Restaurant Association President and CEO Melissa Fleischut said the policy was a significant financial issue for the restaurant industry.

“Quite honestly, the industry needed to have this happen almost a year ago,” Fleischut told Gothamist. “The Legislature, if they had passed this last year, it could have helped us during the (omicron) slowdown.”

But it’s not just a policy versus finance debate holding back the proposal, it has also found a major obstacle in the liquor store lobby.

New York State Liquor Store Association and the Metropolitan Package Store Association say that allowing restaurants and bars to sell to-go wine and cocktails would put the industries on the same playing field as liquor stores, but without them having to follow the same rules.

“The proposed legislation would take what remains of these small businesses, their regular customers, and hand them over to another industry that is not being compelled to follow the same burdensome regulations for nothing in return,” the Metro Package Store Association wrote in a memo last month.

“Essentially, we are being told there is no burden for us and, even if there is, just ‘take the hit.’”

State lawmakers will now negotiate with Hochul’s office to determine a final budget, meaning that despite some opposition and the draft budgets, to-go cocktails aren’t totally off the menu for now.

Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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