ALBANY, N.Y. — New Yorkers will no longer have to buy a jelly sandwich, chips or other snack with their beer under an executive order that state lawmakers repealed Wednesday.
Last summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring food to be sold with alcoholic beverages at bars and restaurants. At the time, COVID-19 rates were low and the state had begun allowing New York City bars and restaurants to re-open.
State lawmakers passed resolutions Wednesday to repeal the directive, which restaurant owners have blasted for months as nonsensical.
Cuomo had said chips or fruit alone couldn't count as "food," which led to a Saratoga Springs bar offering "Cuomo Chips and Salsa."
"Witnessing the industry-wide devastation during the pandemic was heartbreaking," Sen. John Mannion, a Democrat of central New York, said. "Rescinding the food with beverage mandate is the most pressing issue in all of my conversations with owners and managers."
The rate of new COVID-19 cases in New York is higher than three dozen other states but plummeting: 27,000 people have tested positive in the last seven days, down 31% from nearly 40,000 the prior week.
More than 52,000 people have died of COVID-19 in New York since last year, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
Cuomo defended the food-with-drinks rule over his concerns about inebriated people mingling at bars without social distancing.
"If you're not eating a meal and you're just drinking, then it's just an outdoor bar and people are mingling and they're not isolated and individual tables, and that's what we're seeing," Cuomo said last July 16.
Also on Wednesday, Cuomo announced an end to restaurant and bar curfews starting next month. Outdoor and indoor dining areas can operate past midnight beginning May 17 and May 31, respectively.
And starting Monday May 3, people can sit at bars in New York City.
"These outdated policies made it too difficult for too many small business owners and workers to support themselves and their families, and were a grave inconvenience to customers," Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said.
Lawmakers, who have made it harder for Cuomo to pass new COVID-19 rules this year, repealed other executive orders Wednesday: including Cuomo's elimination of a loophole allowing volunteers in government to avoid compliance with state ethical requirements.
Lawmakers also repealed Cuomo's executive orders imposing fines and penalties on health care providers for failing to distribute COVID-19 vaccine within a week of receiving them.