Cuomo wants to reform NY alcohol laws before end of legislative session

Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have a lot of favorite four-letter words, but the two he wanted to talk about Wednesday were “beer” and “jobs.”

Cuomo is calling on the state Legislature to act on a measure that would reform the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. The changes are based on recommendations, which the governor accepted, from a working group tasked with reviewing the law.

Vincent Bradley, chairman of the State Liquor Authority, said Cuomo’s proposal would allow bars and restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages to customers before noon on Sundays. The legislation also would permit the SLA to consider liquor license applications for restaurants that are within 200 feet of a church or a school.

Other provisions in the bill include streamlining paperwork for manufacturers seeking to produce other beverages. (Bradley used the example of a brewery or a winery that wants to make whiskey.)

The measure also would allow the sale of wine in growlers and reduce licensing and permit fees for craft beverage salespeople and small beverage wholesalers.

“Our progress has been remarkable,” Bradley said of the craft beverage industry. “But there’s more work to do.”

Cuomo, who unveiled the bill at Three Heads Brewing in Rochester, said while the state has made minor changes to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, more action was needed.

He contends the existing law is stifling New York’s craft beverage producers.

“The law was created 80 years ago, right after Prohibition,” he said. “That’s when the law was written. It is the most bizarre, arcane, frustrating, maddening law that you could imagine.”

The working group which recommended the changes spent months reviewing the ABC Law. It started its work in November, one month after Cuomo hosted a craft beverage summit in Albany.

With the recommendations submitted by the working group, Cuomo said the state has “dramatically redone that law.”

“I think it will unleash even more entrepreneurial activity, more job generation, more facilities like the one we’re in today,” he said. “Because we want to make it easier.”

But first, the state Legislature must approve the reforms.

The legislative session concludes in mid-June, which gives Cuomo roughly one month to usher the bill through the Assembly and Senate.

He urged the state Legislature to act before the session ends.

“They should definitely be reformed this year,” Cuomo said. “There is no excuse for the Legislature to leave Albany without changing this law. We know the potential in this industry. We know how great it can grow. We know the great things it’s doing. Let’s unleash even more entrepreneurial energy. It is good for everyone.”