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Booze for Sunday brunch and football: Bar owners cheer end to morning sales ban

By Don Cazentre | dcazentre@syracuse.com 
Syracuse Post-Standard
on June 14, 2016 at 3:13 PM, updated June 14, 2016 at 3:14 PM


Many of those fans, who promised to “drink this town dry,” spent the night in Syracuse and then ventured out the next morning, Many showed up at Empire Brewing Co. in Armory Square for its famous Sunday Blues Brunch.

That’s when they discovered a wrinkle in New York state liquor law: Even though Empire starts its brunch at 10 a.m., the state prohibited liquor, wine or beer sales before noon on Sunday.

“They were astounded that this law even existed,” said Empire owner David Katleski, whose restaurant makes its own beer and serves wine and liquor. “It wasn’t just them. Every Sunday after an SU game we have out-of-town fans coming in before they leave town and finding that we can’t serve them alcohol.”

deal reached by Gov, Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers today rewrites part of the state liquor law that has existed since the end of Prohibition in 1933: Bars and restaurants can now serve alcohol starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays. (The others days of the week continue to have alcohol service starting at 8 a.m.).

That’s a compromise for bar owners who had lobbied for a year-round 8 a.m. Sunday opening time. But there is also this provision: Bars and restaurants can apply for up to 12 special one-day permits for 8 a.m. Sunday starting times.

That will solve the dilemma that seemed to light a fire under the effort to to change the Sunday alcohol laws: Last year, the Buffalo Bills played an NFL game in London that started at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time. The New York Giants play a London game at that time this fall.

Sean Ohnmacht, owner of Greene’s Ale House in Oswego, said the change to 10 a.m. is a “positive step” that will allow him to start serving brunch for the first time. He will also apply for all 12 permits for 8 a.m.

For Greene’s, it’s not just football: The bar also shows a lot of European and world soccer matches, many of which start early on weekends.

“I guarantee we’ll fill up for soccer,” Ohnmacht said.

That’s also the case for Wolff’s Biergarten, which bills itself as a soccer lover’s paradise on Montgomery Street next to Syracuse City Hall.

“We’ll definitely get all 12 permits,” said Wolff’s owner Matt Baumgartner. “The hard part is looking at the schedule and seeing which days we want. We’ll have to choose wisely.”

Beyond sports fans, of course, the change, which still must pass the full legislature,will allow diners to order a Bloody Mary or Mimosa at brunch. That’s why the proposal was dubbed the “brunch bill” in Albany.

It also allows bars and restaurants to start to catch up to stores and other retail outlets: The state ended its previous ban on all retail alcohol sales in 2003, and allowed stores to begin selling alcohol at 8 a.m. on Sundays in 2006.

Today’s liquor law reform deal also includes these provisions:

• It eliminates paperwork requirements for craft manufacturers: At the 2012 Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit, Cuomo ended the State Liquor Authority’s policy prohibiting multiple manufacturing licenses at the same location, recognizing the burdens this placed, for example, on a small winery that wanted to also make whiskey. However, businesses holding multiple licenses must still file paperwork and renewals for each separate license. The agreement combines craft manufacturing licenses into one application to reduce burdensome paperwork for these small businesses.

• It authorizes the sale of wine in growlers: Current law requires that wine sold at retail for off-premises consumption be kept in their original sealed containers, and consequently, New York wineries are prohibited from filling growlers. The agreement allows wineries to fill their customers’ growlers and allows wineries and farm wineries to allow customers to take home partially finished bottles of wine.

• It cuts other fees and allows liquor stores to sell gift-wrapping.

Don Cazentre writes about food, beverages, restaurants and bars for syracuse.com and The Post-Standard. Contact him by email, on Twitter, atGoogle+ or via Facebook.