Alcoholic Beverage Control Reform Working Group Issues Recommendations

Governor Cuomo announced the final report and recommendations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law Working Group – a diverse group of alcoholic beverage industry experts assembled to review ways to modernize and simplify New York’s 80-year old Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. Following the third Wine, Beer, Spirits and Cider Summit, Governor Cuomo called for the modernization of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, noting that the statute, enacted in 1934 following the repeal of Prohibition, is outdated, confusing, and difficult for businesses to navigate. In November 2015, the Governor created this Working Group comprised of industry attorneys, craft manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, a Community Board representative and other industry experts to review the law and make recommendations on how best to modernize it. Over four public meetings, the Working Group agreed to over a dozen recommendations to revise, consolidate and modernize the law, including:

Reorganizing the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law: The Working Group recommends a complete reorganization of the laws in a coherent, customer focused manner in order to better serve those regulated businesses. The report includes a proposed outline for the reorganization.

Consolidating Licenses: The Working Group finds the current structure causes confusion and recommends amending the law to reduce the number of licenses to three: one for beer; a second for wine and beer; and a third for establishments that serve beer, wine and liquor. The proposed statutory change will clearly state the types of businesses eligible for a particular license, thereby simplifying the application process.

Modernizing New York’s Blue Laws: The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law includes provisions strictly prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages at on-premises establishments (restaurants, bars, taverns) from 4 a.m. until 12 noon on Sunday. The Working Group recommends two options regarding sales on Sunday; (1) amending the statewide hours from 12 noon to 8 a.m., or (2) creating a permit to allow on-premises licenses to serve before noon on Sunday.

Supporting Craft Manufacturers: The Working Group recommends combining craft manufacturing licenses into one application to reduce mandatory paperwork for these small businesses. In addition, the Working Group recommends authorizing wineries and farm wineries to allow customers to take home partially finished bottles of wine, reducing the fee and eliminating the mandatory bond for solicitor’s permits for craft manufacturers, and allowing wineries to sell wine in refillable growlers.

We sought a discussion over liquor pricing as part of this Working Group, but the liquor wholesaler representative wasn’t as interested as we were in having the conversation. We did get an agreement from the Chairman of the State Liquor Authority to continue talking about a number of subjects not resolved during the Working Group’s meetings, including liquor pricing, at a future date. We’re not waiting for the wholesalers to agree – we’re continuing our pursuit of legislation to authorize co-op (group) buying of alcohol by on-premise licensees and to allow you to purchase liquor and wine from package stores.