As New York City tentatively enters Phase 2 of reopening, restaurants and bars are now able to offer limited outdoor dining. For operators that have been confined to take-out and to-go for over three months, the revenue stream offers a much-needed lifeline. But some business owners complain that strict payment conditions enforced by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) are impeding their plans to reopen.
The SLA allows retailers, including bars and restaurants, to purchase alcohol from wholesalers using credit (if the wholesaler wishes to offer it). But if a retailer does not pay their bills within a certain timeframe, the wholesaler is then required to report that business to SLA, which places them on a so-called “delinquent list.” Once a retailer has been placed on the list, they can no longer purchase from any other distributor until their bills have been paid.
On Monday, The New York Post reported that the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) has called on the SLA to relax the rules to help restaurants get back on their feet. But SLA officials denied the request and said it would be unfair to the wholesalers.
“I tried to explain to them the wholesalers aren’t going to get their money anyway,” NYSRA’s chief executive Melissa Fleischut told The Post. “[Restaurant owners] can’t pay.”
While the SLA’s laws prohibit operators on the delinquent list from purchasing from distributors, they do not stop those businesses from reopening. But some, including Terroir Tribeca owner Paul Grieco, say that not being able to buy wine puts them at a great disadvantage right now because they are not able to stock for the season.
“Now all of a sudden [rosé] becomes 50 percent of your wine sales, and I need to buy rosé and I’ve got no goddamn money to do that,” Grieco said.
Grieco added: “Everyone else is willing to have a conversation and I can’t with that group of vendors, and your back’s against the wall.”
Further adding to the concerns of bar and restaurant owners is the fact that relaxed takeout alcohol allowances in New York City are on the cusp of expiring. On June 27, the flexible accommodations for selling takeout cocktails and bottles of wine and liquor to go will be reevaluated. If revoked, this could have serious implications for businesses with limited or no outdoor dining spaces.