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ABC Reform & Sunday Morning Sales Advance But Huge Obstacles Remain

Our efforts to make changes to the antiquated Alcohol Beverage Control Law and the specific change to allow alcohol sales in restaurants and bars on Sunday mornings have progressed since last month’s report. Governor Cuomo has advanced his proposal to reform the ABC laws to the state legislature. The legislation includes all of the recommendations of the SLA’s Working Group except for the reorganization of the law into a more coherent arrangement. Those recommendations are:

  • Allowing SLA to Issue Sunday Morning On-Premise Permits
  • Granting Discretion to Liquor Authority, with local input, on 200 Foot Rule
  • Reduce Craft Manufacturers Paperwork
  • Authorize Liquor Stores to Sell Wine in Growlers
  • Reduces Fees for Craft Beverage Salespeople
  • Reduces Fees for Small Wholesalers

The Governor’s bill was delivered to the legislature at the end of May. By protocol, the Chairs of the Legislative Committees that review changes to the Alcohol Beverage Control Law introduce a bill like this. Senator Lanza (R – Staten Island), Chair of the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, promptly introduced the bill – S7935. His counterpart, Assemblyman Schimminger, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Economic Development and Job Creation has not as of yet introduced the bill in the Assembly.

We’re pleased that the Governor has proposed this package of changes to the law. They make sensible improvements to the law. It’s late in the legislative session and we’re unclear if these recommendations will get the attention they deserve. The most important proposal for our members, Sunday morning sales, has been offered up by several legislators and is pending in committee in both the Assembly and Senate. We’re supporting two bills, with somewhat different approaches:

A8617 – S6307: Our preferred approach, this bill allows the SLA to issue a permit to an on-premises licensee to sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday mornings from 8:00 am – noon. The fee for the annual permit ranges from $50 to $250, depending on the size of your municipality. The bill requires notice to your local municipality upon original application for a permit, as you had to do when you applied for your license. The Governor’s proposal appears to be based on this bill.

A9668 – S6982: This bill also allows the SLA to issue a Sunday morning sales permit but it only allows sales from 10:00 am – noon, except for up to 12 Sundays per year that you may seek a special permit to be open from 8:00 – 10:00 am. Getting the opportunity to be open on Sunday mornings from 10:00 am – noon is better than the current law.

Both of these bills are being considered by the State Senate’s Committee on Investigations and Government Operations this week and are expected to advance. Combined with Senator Lanza’s introduction of Governor Cuomo’s ABC Reform proposal it’s an indication that the Senate is open to changes in this outdated law. The Assembly is a different story.

Assembly Economic Development and Job Creation Committee Chairman Robin Schimminger has been cool, at best, to these proposals and has clearly stated his opposition to the two Sunday morning sales bills we support. He has lent his support to an alternative proposal which would allow on-premises establishments to sell alcohol at 11:00 am on Sunday mornings. And while this is better than noon, it’s out of step with our customers’ norms who want to watch European soccer or NFL football on Sunday morning.

There’s a huge economic opportunity for our industry and the only barrier is an outdated law based on the imposition of religious values on your business – a barrier that’s been lifted for all other commercial activities. With the New York Giants playing in London on October 23rd the economic opportunity is real and the loss will be quite painful if businesses are empty because the law has not been changed.

There are only three weeks remaining before the legislature concludes its work on June 16th so we have work to do. We’re stepping up our efforts in Albany and need your continued assistance. Contact your state legislators today and urge them to support these two bills.