New York's liquor stores are 'essential businesses,' remain open

Saying that he wants "everyone to be safe," Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday the strictest rules yet for both New Yorkers and businesses in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 amid the global pandemic of the virus that causes it. 

The governor wants most people to stay home and so-called non-essential businesses to close up shop by 8 p.m. on Sunday, March March 22. But in what may be a relief to many New Yorkers who might fear cabin fever and anxiety, the liquor stores in the state will be allowed to stay open.

"We've studied all the other countries. We've talked to people all across the globe about what they did, what they've done, what worked, what doesn't work, and that has all informed this policy," Cuomo said. "Remain indoors to the greatest extent to protect physical and mental health."

Cuomo's latest order allows for exemptions for several industries that are considered "essential" to the ongoing response to the coronavirus crisis, the continuing functioning of society, and the survival of everyone.

Grocery stores including all food and beverage stores, convenience stores, farmer's markets, gas stations, and restaurants and bars (but only for take-out and delivery) are among the businesses considered "essential," according to an Empire State Development guidance memo.

"Essential services have to continue to function. Grocery stores need food, pharmacies need drugs, your Internet has to continue to work, the water has to run on when you turn the faucet," the governor said. "When I talk about the most drastic we can take this is the most drastic action we can take."

In New York, only licensed liquor stores can sell wine and spirits (but not beer, go figure). Grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, and certain other retailers can sell beer. Also, distilleries, wineries, and breweries can sell their products directly and at farmer's markets.

Under Cuomo’s recent executive orders, bars and restaurants were given temporary permission to sell alcohol to go with food orders. 

The State Liquor Authority has also posted guidance on its website to try to unspool some of the complicated rules and orders. Its recent guidance confirms that wine and spirts shops may stay open but reminds stores that “social distancing remains one of our best defenses against the spread of the coronavirus.”

Anyway, the governor wants you to stay home and avoid groups. His revised rules ban "gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason." This is the time to catch up on your reading, Netflix queue, and solo training miles for what will hopefully be your fall marathon.

"We need everyone to be safe," Cuomo said. "Otherwise no one can be safe."


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