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A New York business expert says cocktails-to-go and other liquor laws are overdue for a full update

two colorful cocktails in plastic to-go cups held up to the camera by people in the background
Cocktails-to-go proved popular during the pandemic and created revenue for struggling restaurants and bars.

Gov. Kathy Hochul's proposal to allow alcohol-to-go on a permanent basis for bars and restaurants is spurring conversations about New York State's antiquated liquor laws.

Paul Zuber, the head of government affairs at the Business Council of New York State, says there are a number of laws, particularly those affecting liquor stores, that were the result of Prohibition-era fears, but he doesn’t think that liquor stores would suffer from making alcohol-to-go a permanent policy.

He’s urging lawmakers to keep bottle sales restricted to liquor stores, and think about a comprehensive reform to other laws as they work to pass alcohol-to-go.

"When you talk about bottles, I think you're talking about potentially replacing sales at liquor stores; when you're talking about a limited to-go, you're not really impacting on the liquor stores’ business,” Zuber said.

The liquor store lobby has been vocal in opposing alcohol-to-go, but Zuber points to another law that he thinks is having a bigger effect: Licensing.

Liquor store owners get only one license, but people who want to operate a bar or restaurant could be licensed in 50 establishments.

"What's happened is it's limited access,” Zuber said.

He told public radio's Capitol Pressroom that there are many laws that need to be changed in New York, particularly the multiple license law, to help equalize things in the alcohol and beverage industry.