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‘Brunch bill’ aims to lift ban on Sunday morning alcohol sales

By Henry Davis

Updated 10:22 PM
April 17, 2016

Buffalo News

 It’s nicknamed the “Brunch Bill,” and the idea is to lift a ban adopted after the end of Prohibition to allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol before noon on Sundays.

Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, made a pitch Sunday outside the Left Bank restaurant on Rhode Island Street for the legislation he is co-sponsoring, saying the ban stemmed from old laws that no longer reflect the realities of life in 2016.

“It’s one of many outdated Prohibition-era laws we have been trying to fix over the years,” Ryan said, referring to past efforts to make it easier to open craft beer breweries and spirit-makers.

A 19-member panel, the Alcohol Beverage Control Law Working Group, created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to study changes to regulations released recommendations last week that include a change in the Sunday alcohol sales. The alcohol working group suggested two options for Sunday: Allow alcohol sales starting at 8 a.m. at restaurants and bars, similar to other days of the week, or establish a process in which businesses obtain special permits for the Sunday morning sales.

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The panel used the Buffalo Bills football game played last year in London as an example of why the law should change. Because of the time difference, television coverage here started at 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday, yet restaurants and bars with patrons there to watch the game could not sell alcohol.

The New York Giants play a London game at that time this season, and a similar situation arises with soccer fans, whose European matches are often televised in the United States on Sunday mornings, the panel noted in its report.

Hieu Huynh, head bartender at the Left Bank, supports Sunday morning alcohol sales.

“The restriction is ridiculous,” she said. “It makes it hard to work in this industry. Our clientele should be able to make these decisions about when they can drink.”

The current Alcohol Beverage Control Law in the state was enacted in 1934 after the repeal of Prohibition.

Last year, Erie County Legislator Patrick B. Burke, D-Buffalo, submitted what he called his “mimosa resolution” to the Legislature, alluding to the popular cocktail.

Burke asked his colleagues to go on record opposing the Sunday restriction in hopes of generating support for a change in state law.

“Let’s treat adults like adults. There are plenty of law-abiding citizens who can make appropriate decisions about alcohol on Sunday mornings,” he said.

Ryan also said that the legislation, which is sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle, D-Irondequoit, could benefit the atmosphere at Bills games by bringing more fans into a “controlled” environment of a stadium restaurant instead of having them drinking in the parking lots before games.

Other recommendations by the panel include:

• Authorizing wineries to let customers take home partly finished bottles and let wineries sell wine in refillable growlers, as breweries can do.

• Reorganizing state laws by the type of license that a business would need, such as retail or wholesale, rather than by type of beverages sold.

The proposals require approval by the State Legislature. Ryan said he expects action on the Sunday morning alcohol sales measure in the current session.