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Borrello: Order Repeal Took 54 Days Too Long

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, speaks on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, criticizing fellow lawmakers for waiting 54 days to repeal an executive order requiring food purchases to order alcohol in a restaurant or bar.

Those who want an alcoholic beverage in New York state no longer have to order food.

The state Legislature on Wednesday approved resolutions to portions of a series of executive orders issued by the governor over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The votes came 54 days too late for state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, who spoke on the Senate floor before the resolutions were approved.

“While the pandemic was certainly not a crisis that we created, the economic crisis was absolutely man-made by one man, enabled by this body, and by the Assembly,” Borrello said.

“So here we are, 54 days after we were told the governor’s powers were rescinded, 54 days after people on both sides of the aisle stood on this floor and said that this particular executive order requiring food to be purchased with alcohol was unscientific and very damaging. We waited 54 more days to do something about it. Twenty percent of New York’s restaurants have closed since this man-made crisis began. Fifty-four days it took us to bring this resolution forward. Restaurant workers that were displaced that I personally went down and saw in places like Corona, Queens, that had to resort to street vending to feed their families, and we waited 54 more days to do something about it. So I’m happy to be here but I’m sad that it took us this long to put aside the politics and do what was right for the people of New York state.”

Senate Republicans on March 10 had introduced a concurrent resolution (B477) to rescind the order, but it was never taken up by legislative Democrats. Cuomo announced the mandate during a July news conference without first providing any specific guidance to businesses, a move which led to unnecessary confusion within New York’s restaurant, tavern and hospitality industry about what did or did not qualify as a food item. Some restaurants created small snacks to satisfy the directive, including one bar in Saratoga Springs that would bill the snack as “Cuomo Chips.”

Several Chautauqua County restaurant owners told The Post-Journal and OBSERVER recently that repealing the requirement to serve food with any alcohol purchase would do more to help local restaurants than changing the hours restaurants are allowed to be open.

“I will admit I had a little bit of deja vu reading it since we introduced it back in mid-March,” Borrello said of the resolution passed Wednesday. “But I’m happy to be here this day. Unfortunately, speaking as a restaurant owner and a small business owner, I can tell you that as good as we got here today it’s still a sad day for so many businesses. The reality is we had the power to do this since Day 1.”

In addition to the executive order linking consumption of alcohol with food orders, the legislature repealed portions of Executive Order 202.6 and 202.7, which suspended the state Public Officers Law and exempted volunteers from government disclosure and transparency rules; and portions of Executive Orders 202.86, 202.88 and 202.89, which included penalties and prioritization rules for COVID-19 vaccinations.

“I had serious questions whether or not the governor ever had the authority to impose a million dollar fine without legislative authorization,” Goodell said on the Assembly floor Wednesday. “I certainly was very sensitive as the sponsor was to the chilling effect it had in some ways on the critical effort to get the vaccine out because people were so concerned if they didn’t follow the right procedure they might lose the opportunity or might face these huge fines. Even though I don’t think the original executive orders were valid I certainly support this resolution because with the resolution we know that they are gone and our health care in this most challenging time wouldn’t be facing a million dollar fine if they inadvertently vaccinated someone the governor didn’t think was ready.”

CUOMO ANNOUNCEMENT

Prior to the legislative votes Wednesday, Cuomo announced that the state’s midnight food and beverage service curfew will be lifted for outdoor dining areas beginning May 17 and for indoor dining areas beginning May 31.

Cuomo also announced on Wednesday that the 1 a.m. curfew for catered events where attendees have provided proof of vaccination status or a recent negative COVID-19 test result will be lifted beginning May 17, with the curfew for all catered events set to be lifted May 31.

Additionally, Cuomo said catered events can resume at residences beginning May 3 above the state’s residential gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, as long as the events are staffed by a professional, licensed caterer, permitted by the respective locality or municipality, and strictly adhere to health and safety guidance, including social and event gathering limits, masks and social distancing. Also on May 3, the guidance for dancing among attendees at catered events will be aligned with neighboring states, replacing fixed dance zones for each table with social distancing and masks.

Finally, the governor announced that starting May 3, seating at bars will be allowed in New York City, consistent with the food services guidance that is in effect statewide.

“We know the COVID positivity rate is a function of our behavior, and over the last year New Yorkers have remained disciplined and continued with the practices we know work to stop the spread of the virus,” Cuomo said. “Everything we’ve been doing is working – all the arrows are pointing in the right direction and now we’re able to increase economic activity even more. 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. To be clear: we will only be able to maintain this progress if everyone gets the COVID vaccine. It is the weapon that will will the war and we need everyone to take it, otherwise we risk going backward.”

Cuomo also announced that capacities would be increased throughout several industries that have proven to safely reopen in accordance with the State’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, starting May 15:

¯ gyms and fitness centers outside of New York City will increase from 33% to 50% capacity.

¯ casinos and gaming facilities will increase from 25% to 50% capacity.

¯ offices will increase from 50% to 75% capacity.

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