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No food, no service

Joseph Spector

In a bid to maintain social distancing at bars and restaurants, New York will prevent bars and restaurants from selling alcohol to those who do not also order food.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday the move is being made statewide amid concerns about groups gathering at bars and restaurants either outside or inside without appropriate COVID-19 safety measures.

New York will also ban walk-up bar service, meaning alcohol can only be served to those seated at tables six feet apart or in takeout orders.

“If you’re not eating a meal and you’re just drinking, then it’s just an outdoor bar and people are mingling, and they are not isolated in individual tables, and that’s what we are seeing,” Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters.

New York has allowed outdoor dining in Phase 2 of a region’s reopening, which happened in most parts of the state in late May or early June. Indoor dining was allowed in Phase 3, except in New York City.

Large gatherings at bars and restaurants have been particularly worrisome for health officials across the nation because outspreads have been linked to patrons partying together in close proximity.

New York City especially has been the scene of bar-goers hanging outside establishments on sidewalks because the state hasn’t allowed indoor dining in the city.

“The concept here is that bars and restaurants would only be allowed to do outdoor dining. That is a dining situation. You go with several people, you sit at a table and you have a meal,” Cuomo said. 

“That would limit the exposure to the people at that table and then the tables are socially distanced.” But having people ordering drinks at bars or drinking without people at tables with food could be problematic as New York has fought to lower its infection rates to among the lowest in the nation.

The state still has the most deaths and cases in the nation at about 25,000 as the virus’ caseload has reached record highs in more than two dozen states, mainly in the South and West.

“This is a question of public health,” Cuomo said. “New Yorkers paid a dear price for COVID, and they are equally upset with these violations.”

Cuomo announced more stringent regulations in New York City: A bar or restaurant that has three violations will have their liquor license revoked, or sooner if an egregious incident occurs.

The state law requires outdoor tables to be spaced six feet apart; all staff must wear face coverings; occupancy must be limited to 50% of capacity; and customers must also wear face coverings when not seated.