FAQ: Outdoor Tastings For New York Wineries

Recently Governor Cuomo announced that outdoor dining would be permitted starting June 4th at restaurants located in regions currently in Phase 2 for reopening. Those regions currently include: the Capital Region, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier and Western New York. NYWGF received notification from the NY State Liquor Authority (SLA) that this privilege extends to craft beverage tasting rooms. 

For those that do plan to open for outside service then they must read the Guidance and Affirm their understanding of and compliance with the Guidelines for “Outdoor and Take-Out/Delivery Food Services”. The guidelines document should answer many questions.

Below are questions that have been received by our office, and the answers from either the SLA or Governor’s Office:

Q: Is an outdoor open-air pavilion with no walls, but a roof allowed for customer to consume beverage if seated and at least 6’ apart?

A: For an outdoor area, the statement about the roof that’s up all year long needs further clarification regarding structures in the NY Forward Guidelines. It seems very arbitrary. Canvas roof is okay but if you take that canvas and make it another material, it’s not okay. Understanding that there are qualifications for open air, can they better clarify or make it more winery friendly? Use this link to see an example of winery’s outdoor deck area that clearly has it partly covered by a permanent roof: https://images.app.goo.gl/zu3UUiWpkGNMN4RV8

Guidelines Document States on Page 3: For the purposes of this guidance, “outdoor space” is defined as an open air space without a fixed roof (besides a temporary or seasonal awning or cover). Within such outdoor space, all tables with seats must be at least six feet from any other table, seat, patron, or pedestrian thoroughfare or corridor.

SLA: Our guidance comes from DOH, and states that if it’s fixed, it is not permissible and if its temporary, it is.  So, if a reasonable person would view the overhead structure as not temporary, we think it would be violation of the DOH guidance, but if further clarification is needed, it will have to come from DOH.  The reasonable persons view of permanence is the guiding principle.

GOVERNOR’S OFFICE: Further commentary from Governor’s office: No service inside, period. Service and or sitting under a permanent roof is not allowed. Definitely not allowable under the roof in the picture. The guidance won’t change any time soon.

Q: Can customers stand at an outdoor bar top table while maintaining the 6’ social distance and consume beverage without masks?

Guidelines Document States on Page 3: Responsible Parties may allow customers to sit at outdoor bar areas, provided a distance of at least six feet can be maintained between parties (i.e. groups of patrons). Patrons must also wear face coverings at all times, except while seated; provided, however, that the patron is over the age of two and able to medically tolerate such covering. 

Q: Are paid tastings allowed? Does this mean tastings are allowed outside? Or just bottle and glass sales? It’s not clear.

A: Yes, paid tastings are allowed.

SLA: We’re not distinguishing any particular form of on premises service, tasting vs. by the glass, there’s no reason to in my mind so long as it follows the guidance.  Any tastings should obviously follow DOH guidance and best sanitary practices.

Q: Must bar staff where a mask when no one is around or customers are farther than 6’ away?

Guidelines Document States on Page 3: Responsible Parties must ensure that bar area staff keep a distance of at least six feet between each other and/or customers, when possible. Responsible Parties must ensure all employees wear an acceptable face covering at all times.

Q: What is a licensee supposed to do in the event of inclement weather? Can they move their guests inside for service? Or does all outdoor service have to be suspended and customers must leave?

SLA: No inside dining at all, so, I think that licensees should work on contingency plans to pack up food and drinks to go if the weather turns.

Q: Regarding this particular bullet in the SLA guidance: “Any movement of an existing point of sale while keeping the number of currently licensed points of sale the same must be noted in the diagram submitted pursuant to this guidance, the addition of a new point of sale in excess of the number of currently licensed points of sale shall require application to the SLA for and additional bar license.” Wineries are confused by this. One reached out and said, “we don’t license points of sale”. Does this particular bullet have more to do with bars?

SLA: A manufacturer should still have this on their diagram and update any move accordingly, but it is not a licensing issue unless they have an On-Premise license. 

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New York Wine & Grape Foundation

The mission of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation is to promote the world-class image of New York grapes and wines from our diverse regions to responsibly benefit farmers, producers and consumers through innovative marketing, research, communication, and advocacy.