Wednesday's lifting of restrictions by the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) was an enormous moment in the recovery from COVID-19, but what does it really mean for bars and patrons?

The Authority dropped all restrictions by a unanimous vote, but as one commissioner put it at the hearing, "This doesn't mean it's a free-for-all."

It does mean that the NYSLA is no longer going into establishments and issuing fines because people aren't wearing masks. It means they've dropped their curfews and for those bars and restaurants that agreed to restrictions because of a COVID-19 violation, they'll be able to operate under their original license.

The move by the NYSLA does not eliminate all restrictions. Rules set forth by the NYS Department of Health, as guided by the CDC are still in effect. That means people who are not vaccinated must still wear masks and social distance by at least 6-feet. However, vaccinated people can gather without masks if they choose and are not required to social distance.

How is all of this enforced?

Enforcement is not an easy equation, according to New York State. Businesses can require proof of vaccination, or they can rely on the honor system, which many believe leaves the door open to all sorts of inaccuracies. Still, businesses no longer will need to police people on whether or not they've been vaccinated. They can simply post a sign and assume people are being honest.

Bars and restaurants who had their licenses revoked, will not have their license reinstated. However, licensees who negotiated a settlement with the NYSLA and agreed to add restrictions to their license, will see their license revert back to the original requirements. Bars and restaurants which didn't settle their case will still have their license revoked. Additionally, in most cases, licensees who were fined had their fine deferred. Officials say that deferment will remain in effect, meaning they will not be expected to pay the fine as long as they're in good standing with the liquor authority.

The decision by the NYSLA also means vaccinated people no longer are required to wear masks inside establishments. However, each business has the right to add their own mask mandate.

 

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