Queens Chronicle: Queens spots eager for drinks to go
Updated: Feb 16
by Deirdre Bardolf, Associate Editor
When restaurants were forced to close their doors to indoor dining in 2020, businesses had to “become super creative and pivot,” said Rohan Aggarwal, founder and co-owner of Queens Bully, a gastropub on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills.
His restaurant was offering takeout, supplemented slightly by canned beers and frozen margaritas, but that was not cutting it.
“For small businesses like ours, alcohol is where we make money,” said Aggarwal.
His team got the idea to start batching out to-go cocktails but Aggarwal did not like the look or feel of the containers. Then, they found pouches with spouts to fill with libations including lychee-infused rum and cucumber vodka. Tipsy Takeout was born, complete with a website to order through and a delivery option.
“Once we started Tipsy, it was a huge success,” said Aggarwal. “People were very happy with the product. It was an item they could easily travel with, especially in the summertime when people were going to the beaches, they were freezing it and sipping them on the beach. It was the perfect transportable cocktail pouch.”
It also brought the mixologists back to work.
“It was definitely a big boost for us,” Aggarwal said.
But that did not last long. The temporary legalization of to-go drinks in 2020, part of a lifeline extended to restaurants during the peak of pandemic shutdowns, lasted just 15 months and was abruptly ended despite its popularity.
“We paused the website and everything ... we kind of halted our innovation,” said Aggarwal, who said the restaurant is still “heavily” stocked with the pouches. But, he may soon have a chance to bring the program back.
Gov. Hochul announced in her State of the State address on Jan. 5 that she intends to legalize the sale of alcoholic drinks to go.
On Tuesday, a bill was introduced by state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and co-sponsored by state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Jackson Heights) to permit the sale of takeout and delivery beverages for off-premises consumption. The proposed legislation is in committee and was referred to the Investigations and Government Operations Committee.
“The governor has asked us to help restaurants in this way,” said Ramos. “We are not going to let her or our restaurants down. We’re crafting legislation that truly helps put these restaurants on the path to recovery. And I believe that we can make this case to our colleagues who will vote for this,” she said.
She predicts the soonest it can be enacted is with the Governor’s budget passing on April 1.
“Hopefully, it would go into effect immediately,” Ramos said.
The state Assembly version of the bill was introduced in 2021 and was referred to the Codes Committee at the beginning of January.