Loony Lockdown Governors Make a Meal of Defining What a Meal Is

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

While activists demand politicians defund the actual police, nanny-state governors are deploying the “menu police.” California’s Governor Gavin Newsom and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have decided to dictate what constitutes a meal to sell a companion adult beverage.


It started earlier this month in New York, where Governor Cuomo issued an order that any business selling alcoholic beverages for consumption had to sell the customer a meal as well. His justification appeared to be social distancing:

“If you’re not eating a meal, and you’re just drinking, then it’s just an outdoor bar and people are mingling and they’re not isolated at individual tables. And that’s what we’re seeing,” Cuomo said.

No mingling for New Yorkers! These guidelines were the result of about 5,000 Karens calling the state’s hotline reporting people who were not social distancing at bars. The new instructions were quite specific:

“Purchase of a food item which is consistent with the food availability requirement of the license under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law” shall mean that for each patron in a seated party, an item of food must be purchased at the same time as the purchase of the initial alcoholic beverage(s).

However, one or more shareable food item(s) may be purchased, so long as it/they would sufficiently serve the number of people in the party and each item would individually meet the food standard below.

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The enforcement even went so far as to define “Cuomo Chips” as insufficient unless salsa is served with them.

Not to be outdone, Nanny-State Newsom issued his guidelines. Having backtracked on reopening, the governor ordered bars closed again. So to serve alcohol in outdoor dining venues, a meal must be provided. More restrictive than New York, it appears that appetizers are not making the cut in California.

It is often easier to describe what does not constitute a bona fide meal. In that regard, while the statute excludes mere offerings of sandwiches and salad, the Department does recognize that many sandwiches and salads are substantial and can constitute legitimate meals. Once again, the Department looks at the totality of circumstances and generally considers that pre-packaged sandwiches and salads would not typically meet this standard. In addition, the Department will presume that the following, and offerings similar to them, do not meet the meal requirement:

  • Snacks such as pretzels, nuts, popcorn, pickles, and chips
  • Food ordinarily served as appetizers or first courses such as cheese sticks, fried calamari, chicken wings, pizza bites (as opposed to a pizza), egg rolls, pot stickers, flautas, cups of soup, and any small portion of a dish that may constitute a main course when it is not served in a full portion or when it is intended for sharing in small portions
  • Side dishes such as bread, rolls, French fries, onion rings, small salads (green, potato, macaroni, fruit), rice, mashed potatoes, and small portions of vegetables
  • Reheated refrigerated or frozen entrees
  • Desserts

So your salad can be served on a plate, but not in a pre-packaged container. One is a meal, and one isn’t. This specificity is some next-level insanity. There is no ordering some appetizers to share while you sip a beverage, either. You must eat a “bona fide meal,” which even the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control concedes is challenging to define. However, they clearly tell you what a meal is not.

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As long as Americans allow this kind of intrusion into their freedom and liberty, this will continue. It almost seems like these governors with serious authoritarian streaks are just trying to see how far they can go in dictating the smallest details of people’s lives.

Even worse, these governors are picking winners and losers. If a business owner can’t meet the particular and often unnecessary regulations that are in no way based on science or public safety, they can’t open their business. These types of insane demands aren’t just for restaurants. They exist across the service industry where a company deals with the public.

The callousness and stupidity of this level of regulation will impact these nanny states for decades. And the longer this goes on, the clearer it becomes that they are politically motivated. The end goal seems to be to make Americans as miserable as possible, leading up to November.

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