Soon You'll No Longer Have to Order Food to Get an Alcoholic Beverage in NYC

New York legislators are ready to overrule Cuomo's strange COVID-era guideline.

mad donkey bar and grill nyc
Courtesy of Mad Donkey
Courtesy of Mad Donkey

What's the weirdest food item a bar has served you over the past year? For me, it's a tie between a frozen vegetable platter and half of a "cheese sandwich" that was comprised simply of a Kraft single and two pieces of Wonder Bread.

Shortly after to-go cocktails were permitted in NYC last spring, Cuomo issued a strange directive for local bars and restaurants that has since become the butt of jokes citywide. The governor's order says that if you want to buy an alcoholic beverage from a bar or restaurant, you must also order food. The idea was that if people are eating, they're more likely to stay in one place and mingle less, which would mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In practice, Cuomo's order seemed to do more harm than good, forcing bars unaccustomed to serving meals to quickly enter the food service game. Of course, local dive bars weren't about to build kitchens and come up with elaborate menus, so they had to get creative, serving easy-to-make and cheap-to-prepare foods like chips, PB&Js, and microwaveable pizzas and hot dogs. Often, the food was included with drink purchases free of charge.

PB&J sandwich left in a bar bathroom, a result of Cuomo's COVID-19 rules
A lone PB&J sandwich left in the bathroom at Doris in Bed-Stuy. | Kyler Alvord / Thrillist

While other pandemic-era rules have come and gone, this pesky little food requirement has somehow lingered. Finally, New York lawmakers are ready to put businesses and customers alike out of their misery and suspend Cuomo's often-ignored directive. Both legislative chambers will need to formally approve the suspension, which could happen as early as this week.

MORE: NYC Wants You to Follow These Guidelines if You Choose to Dine Indoors

With the food guideline on its way toward the chopping block, NYC bar and restaurant owners quickly diverted their attention back to two other lingering rules that have put a strain on the hospitality industry: the mandatory curfew and the ban on bar seating. Just in time to appease angry business owners, Cuomo announced on Wednesday that those restrictions would also be nearing an end.

Starting Monday, May 3, bar seating will be permitted at NYC restaurants and bars for the first time since the pandemic began. Come Monday, May 17, the midnight curfew will be lifted for outdoor dining, and on Monday, May 31, the curfew will lift for indoor dining, too.

"Lifting these restrictions for restaurants, bars and catering companies will allow these businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic to begin to recover as we return to a new normal in a post-pandemic world," Cuomo reportedly told press.

While three of the biggest challenges for bars and restaurants will soon go away, many hospitality workers are still concerned about getting home from late-night shifts if the subway continues to shut down between 2 and 4 am. With pressure to find a solution mounting, we just might get a plan for resuming 24/7 transit soon, too.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Kyler Alvord is a news writer at Thrillist. Find him on Twitter and Instagram. Or don't. It's really up to you.