Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state is allowing outdoor dining, not outdoor drinking.
In a phone conference on Tuesday, Cuomo said the state never authorized bars to reopen and that outdoor dining is allowed, but that the state didn't authorize outdoor drinking.
Cuomo called this a "significant problem" and said local governments have not been enforcing the rules.
“We said outdoor dining was allowed, we facilitated outdoor dining to help restaurants," Cuomo said. "You don’t dine when you go to a restaurant to drink, that is drinking and it would’ve been outside drinking that we would’ve authorized, we didn’t authorize outdoor drinking.”
Let's be clear.
Outdoor dining is now permitted statewide.
Outside drinking is not.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) July 21, 2020
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente spoke about Cuomo's comments briefly on Wednesday during a coronavirus press conference.
"I'm as confused as the bar owners, and clearly the designation did not state that in the beginning, that you could only eat outside and nothing else and that drinks outside were not available," Picente said.
Local bar owners, like Victoria Bennison, say Cuomo is causing confusion with his regulations that are changing constantly.
She has an outdoor tent that she put up for patrons at Benny's Place in Holland Patent, after getting approval from the State Liquor Authority.
"It's very frustrating to keep up with him," Bennison said. "I only have four tables right now, so if I didn’t have that tent, I'd only be running at 12 people a day, which would not keep the doors open and I got approved by the State Liquor Authority to have this tent knowing there was going to be alcohol outside.”
Cuomo also announced last week that restaurants can only serve alcohol to people who are also ordering food. Many bars started selling "Cuomo Chips." Cuomo and the State Liquor Authority say chips aren't in compliance.
“We did always have a menu for our patrons, by no means do we have a problem feeding them, but I don’t think they should be forced to do it," Bennison said.
Bennison created a small menu with appetizers to comply.
Cuomo said Tuesday that several establishments have had their licenses suspended by the State Liquor Authority. Most of them are in New York City.
“We’ve been doing what we need to do and this is small, and I don’t like that he keeps threatening us with all this because of what New York City is doing," Bennison said. "It's very frustrating when I keep getting threatened to lose my livelihood, something I’ve worked very hard for.”
Picente says he understands the frustration.
“To tell these restaurants at that time that you can expand outdoors but you can only serve food, I don’t follow it, I don’t get it, I think its was unfair and it still remains unfair to these establishments," Picente said.
Sen. Joe Griffo also released a statement, sharing Picente's sentiment.
“The governor, as a result of another unclear directive, has once again caused unneeded confusion for the owners of bars, restaurants and other establishments who are already struggling. These small businesses need clear and concise guidance, as I have advocated for in the past, so that they know how they can operate. Let’s help them, not hinder them," he said.
To view the full SLA guidance, click here.