Is socially distanced drinking a reality?

Folks are drinking on the sidewalk, with a few even leaning on the wall right next to the tables.

by Paul Kelly and Joe Parisi

Despite the recent troubles facing New York City’s restaurant industry, it has seen two bright spots: outdoor seating, and to-go alcoholic drinks. Without these options, many restaurants in NYC would be struggling even more to stay afloat. Alcoholic drinks account for 30% of restaurant sales, so when the concept of to-go cocktails was introduced a couple of months ago, many restaurants grabbed onto it as a lifeline.

This trend has coincided with an uptick in 311 complaints registered with the city for open-container and social distancing complaints,

Masks and Margs

The concept of to-go cocktails is simple: customers purchase their drinks and leave the premises, like one would with a to-go coffee. That is not the reality. Drinkers are choosing to enjoy their drink right outside of the restaurant, scattering drinkers amongst outdoor diners (and we all know that masks do not mix well with eating and drinking).  The opportunity to socialize over a cocktail at a bar becomes too tempting (a reminder of what it was like pre COVID-19). Not only does doing this violate open container laws, it also puts in jeopardy all of the work restaurants have done on their outdoor seating

A restaurant storefront advertising the sale of their to-go cocktails. 

Open containers, open risk

This trend has coincided with an uptick in 311 complaints registered with the city for open-container and social distancing complaints, changing the perception of these restaurants in their NYC communities. New Yorkers have made close to 60,000 complaints about social distancing since March. Even at this baseline, neighborhoods with large bar and restaurant scenes have seen increases in violations since outdoor dining was approved in New York City. 

Not only does doing this violate open container laws, it also puts in jeopardy all of the work restaurants have done on their outdoor seating. 

With outdoor drinking cluttering up the sidewalk in many neighborhoods, finding a restaurant for a comfortable sit-down meal can be even riskier than it used to be.  Other parts of the world have used inventive ideas like large innertube tables to maintain distance. In NYC, limited space means we have to get creative. Restaurant owners have to develop strategies to manage to-go drinkers, using new creative (but clear) signage to indicate where customers can stand and putting a system in place to direct traffic flow. Envirosell has worked with many clients in the restaurant industry to effectively manage customer flow, in-restaurant communication, and customer sentiment. For more information, please contact us at services@envirosell.com.

Sources

https://www.eater.com/2020/5/5/21246368/legalize-delivery-cocktails-permanently


https://www.insider.com/maryland-restaurant-giant-inner-tubes-customers-social-distancing-2020-5