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HOLIDAY COCKTAIL LOUNGE assorted cocktails
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

To-go cocktails could become a permanent option at NYC bars

Manhattan-based State Senator Brad Hoylman has introduced a bill that would make to-go booze offerings legal for the long haul.

Emma Orlow
Written by
Emma Orlow

One of the few positive things to come out of this period of awfulness in New York is the city's bubbling to-go cocktail scene. Right now, you can find frozen coffee drinks from Do or Dive in Bed-Stuy or even a martini from the preferred artists' hangout, Lucien, in the East Village. Cocktails are being served in all shapes and sizes: mini, pocket-size bottles and even jumbo batch drinks large enough to share with your roommates. Across the five boroughs, it's looking like there will be a much greater emphasis on outdoor dining when the city reopens, with the potential for some streets to welcome more pedestrians—something urban planner extraordinaire Jane Jacobs, who throughout her life advocated for fewer cars on city streets, dreamed of.

And while most activities on your summer agenda will likely be impossible with social distancing (no big, daytime parties coming soon), this is the heyday for drinking a cocktail from a bar in a fun to-go cup. This week, Manhattan-based State Senator Brad Hoylman has introduced a bill that would make to-go booze offerings legal long after this period. At the beginning of this crisis, Governor Andrew Cuomo temporarily loosened local liquor laws to allow bars to offer to-go drinks, provided that they also offer food. In turn, bars started stocking up on random cheap items—such as granola bars or Chex Mix—so that they could legally operate in this new manner. Hoylman's legislation is intended to aid bars and restaurants make a profit in this deeply uncertain landscape in which many hospitality spots will likely struggle to stay in business. 

As for the state of New York's open-container laws, it remains unclear. Obviously, if to-go cocktails are being offered, many will take advantage of the warm weather and drink in the open-air (we've all done it during a picnic hang). But some bar owners are figuring out how to stay compliant and remain safe while being given very little information from public officials.

Palmetto, a new bar near Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick, only opened on Valentine's Day of this year. For the bar's owner Liz Stauber, the ability to serve to-go cocktails right now "isn't just about the drinks. It's an opportunity to stay engaged. We were so new, we hadn't had the opportunity to show people who we are," she shares with Time Out New York. "And that's not just about making money, it's about our role as a business and giving people a social outlet but in a way that can still be safe and doesn't spiral into some kind of unsafe party on the street." So far, she says, that hasn't been an issue and all of their drinks have been served in bottles or with a top, as per current guidelines. 

"Until Cuomo legalizes drinking in public, we ask that you do not open your drinks or even put a straw in your cup until you are back home," writes the Brooklyn bar Pearl's Social & Billy Club on its Instagram. "Hanging out and openly drinking within the vicinity of the bar, even across the street or down the block, you are jeopardizing the small business you are trying to support. The State Liquor Authority is cracking down on public drinking right now and that means BIG fines for small businesses that are just trying to make it through the shutdown. We can’t wait to welcome you back into our bar arms again, but we can’t hang out like the good old days yet." 

Looking for suggestions for some of they city's best to-go cocktails right now? We've got you covered. 

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