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Changes Coming in the Archaic New York State Alcoholic Beverage Control Law

Governor Cuomo announced this past week that he is advancing legislation to “modernize” the State’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (“ABC Law”). As someone that has spent years of my life ensuring license applicants comply with the law, first as an employee of the Liquor Authority and more recently as counsel to individuals and entities appearing before the Liquor Authority, this is a welcome announcement. While we don’t yet know all of the exact details and language, we do know some of the areas the Governor is proposing to change. They are as follows:

Expand Sunday Sales – Current law prohibits sales of alcoholic beverages for all on-premises locations (e.g., bars, restaurants, taverns). The Governor has proposed a special permit that licensees can apply for to allow them to serve patrons between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Sunday mornings.

“Two Hundred Foot Law” – ABC Law currently prohibits on-premises licenses from operating within two hundred feet of a building that is exclusively used as a school or place of worship. The current proposal would do away with the outright ban and provide the Liquor Authority with discretion on this matter and also provides for input from the local municipality and school or place of worship. Often times a local church would have no objection to a business opening nearby and now that can be considered in determining whether or not to grant the license.

Reduce Paperwork for Craft Manufacturers – Anyone that has ever completed a liquor license application in New York can appreciate this proposal. Craft Manufacturing (breweries, wineries and distilleries) has seen enormous growth and change In New York State over the last decade. According to the Governor’s office, this portion of the industry, combined with distribution and retail, accounts for more than $27 billion in economic impact and supports tens of thousands of jobs statewide. Prior to 2012 manufacturers could not hold more than one manufacturing license. So if an entrepreneur wanted to make both wine and beer they would have been required to have a separate facility for each. In 2012 the law changed so that a manufacturer could hold more than one license in the same location. The current proposal would combine craft manufacturing licenses into one application considerably reducing the burdensome paperwork for these small businesses.

Authorize the Sale of Wine in Growlers – We’ve all seen growlers of craft beer for years so why not wine too? Current law requires that wine sold at retail for off-premise consumption be kept in their original sealed containers. The Governor’s proposal would change that law allowing customers to go to their favorite wineries and fill a growler with their favorite wine. The legislation would also authorize wineries to allow customers to take home partially finished bottles of wine.

Reduce Fees for Craft Beverage Salespeople – Currently ABC Law requires that any salesperson employed by a manufacturer or wholesaler must obtain a “solicitor’s permit” in addition to a bond. Recognizing that all manufacturers are not created equal and vary greatly in size and that there is a financial hardship imposed by unnecessary fees on small business the Governor has proposed reducing the fees for a solicitor’s permit and eliminating the bond requirement.

I think most New Yorkers will agree that reducing the bureaucratic burden on small business is a positive development for our local economies and these proposals will encourage growth within the industry and add to the already great choices of New York manufactured alcoholic beverages. Stay tuned for more updates on the changes to the ABC Law as we learn more of the specifics.