New York should make to-go and delivery alcohol permanent
As we grow ever more accustomed to our “new normal” during the pandemic, our everyday patterns and lifestyles continue to shift. Luckily our modern economy has in many ways adapted, along with our consumer habits, to allow many goods and services to be brought to our doorstep instead.
Restaurants, bars and breweries across the country were forced to temporarily close their doors to on-site visitors when the virus first hit, and in many places dining rooms and taprooms have remained shuttered.
Restaurants and retailers were often confronted with the legal reality that they were located in jurisdictions that prohibited alcohol delivery. In an effort to grant a much-needed reprieve to these businesses, governors including New York’s Andrew Cuomo allowed to-go and delivery privileges for cocktails and other types of booze; today, over 30 states have enacted these temporary reforms.
Restaurants and neighborhood liquor stores quickly learned that the feasibility and practicality of implementing a system for delivering their products to customers was still a formidable task—especially in the middle of a pandemic.
Online platforms and delivery services stepped in to fill the void. These online technology companies were able to rapidly scale up delivery services to ensure that customers could safely access alcohol.
The result has been one of the few bright spots during the pandemic. New York restauranteurs have praised to-go and delivery alcohol as a “lifeline” that’s helped them to recoup at least some portion of their lost profits. Further, the restaurants that have been able to offer to-go and delivery alcohol have been bringing back a higher percentage of their previously furloughed employees than those that do not.
Preliminary surveys also confirm that online platforms and services have played a key role in helping New York’s small businesses during COVID-19.
Unfortunately, despite the helpful role many of these online delivery platforms have played during the pandemic, tech companies have continued to face the ire of some politicians. Empire State lawmakers have done everything from pushing for more aggressive antitrust enforcement against large tech companies to introducing bills that would reclassify and prevent the use of the independent contractor delivery force that many of these companies rely on.
Legislators in New York and elsewhere should recognize the important role that alcohol delivery and online technology platforms have played so far during COVID-19. Instead of reflexively complaining about technology companies, lawmakers should concentrate their efforts on common sense reforms like making to-go and delivery alcohol from restaurants and other retailers permanent.
This would be some rare good news during an otherwise dreary year.