State relaxes alcohol laws

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

Go ahead and order a Mimosa or Bloody Mary with Sunday brunch. It’s now legal to serve alcoholic beverages after 10 a.m. in New York State restaurants and bars.

During a visit to Rochester last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation to modernize New York’s 80-year-old Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws, sometimes called “Blue Laws.”

Sponsored by Sen. Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the legislation also adds “common sense” provisions to broaden retail sales by producers, and reduces heavy fees for wineries, distilleries, breweries and cideries statewide. Cuomo has been credited for his efforts to simplify regulations for the beverage industry in recent years, resulting in a three-fold increase in licensed wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries across the state.

“These commonsense steps and regulatory reforms recognize the ongoing need to support and strengthen our world-class wine and craft beverage industries, as well as agriculture, small business and tourism as a whole throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide,” says O’Mara. “I continue to strongly support these bipartisan efforts to recognize our most vibrant industries and take steps to help them grow, create more jobs and strengthen regional economies through the unlimited economic spin-off opportunities they offer.”

“New York’s burgeoning craft beverage industry has served as an economic generator for communities across the state and with this legislation, we are building on that progress,” says Cuomo. “By cutting red tape, breaking down artificial barriers and rolling back arcane and burdensome regulations, we are setting the stage for this industry’s continued resurgence and future growth and I am proud to sign it into law.”

The law amends the ABC Law to include the following:

· Expand Sunday Sales: The law expands Sunday sales at restaurants and bars by changing the statewide opening hours from noon to 10 a.m.

Reduce Paperwork Requirements for Craft Manufacturers: In 2012, Cuomo ended the SLA’s policy prohibiting multiple manufacturing licenses at the same location. The law combines craft manufacturing licenses into one application to reduce burdensome paperwork for these small businesses.

Sales of alcoholic beverages after 10 a.m. Sundays is effective immediately, while other portions of the legislation become effective over the next two to three months.

· Authorize the Sale of Wine in Growlers: Previous law required wine to be sold in their original sealed containers, prohibiting wineries from filling growlers to sell wine for on- and off-premises consumption.

· Reduce Fees for Craft Beverage Salespeople: The law eliminates the fee for a solicitor’s permit for craft manufacturers and removes the bond requirement for all manufacturers.

· Reduced Fees for Small Wholesalers: The new law creates a low-cost “importer’s license” for for $125 per year for wholesalers who sell only to other wholesalers.

· Authorize Gift Wrapping: The law allows liquor stores to sell gift wrapping and gift bags to their customers.

Since 2011, the state has implemented a number of significant reforms and expanded programs to foster the craft beverage industry, including creating new farm-based manufacturing licenses, launching a $60 million statewide promotional campaign, and hosting wine, beer and spirits summits across the state.

The number of farm wineries in New York has increased by over 60 percent, from 195 in 2010 to 315 today. Also, the number of microbreweries has grown by 270 percent, from 40 in 2010 to 148, and farm distilleries grew from just 10 in 2010 to 95 today. Two new licenses have been created since 2011: the farm brewery license in 2013 and the farm cidery license in 2014, with New York now home to 129 farm breweries and 22 farm cideries businesses.