Governor Cuomo Announces Alcoholic Beverage Control Law Working Group Recommendations – recommendations to update New York's alcohol laws include reorganizing statute, consolidating licenses and modernizing the State's Blue Laws

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. “Working collaboratively with all stakeholders, this administration has taken important steps to cut red tape, roll back burdensome recommendations and help this industry continue to grow, thrive and create jobs in New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “I thank the members of this group for their work and their recommendations on how to continue this progress and look forward to reviewing its findings.” 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Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, noting that the statute, enacted in 1934 following the repeal of Prohibition, is outdated, confusing, and difficult for businesses to navigate.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: While a host of legislative improvements have been recently implemented, the Working Group found the overall statute remains a patchwork of laws organized by the beverage type, rather than by the type of license a business would need, leading to confusion and misinterpretation. 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 reorganizing the statute.
  • Consolidating Licenses: There are currently nine separate licenses authorizing the sale of alcohol for on-premises businesses (restaurants, bars, taverns, etc.) scattered throughout three articles of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. 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: At the 2012 Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit, Governor Cuomo ended the State Liquor Authority’s policy prohibiting multiple manufacturing licenses at the same location, recognizing the additional burdens this placed, for example, on a small winery that wanted to also make whiskey – including building a completely separate facility. However, businesses holding multiple licenses must still file paperwork and renewals for each separate license. 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.

The Working Group’s complete report can be found here.

New York State Liquor Authority Chairman Vincent Bradley said, “This report is the culmination of hours of discussions and debate in an effort to reach consensus on changes needed to continue moving this industry forward. Implementation of these recommendations will lead to immediate improvements to the laws regulating this vital industry and strengthen New York’s position as a leader in the beverage industry.”

New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s commitment to the beverage industry, we’re seeing much needed changes to the ABC Laws. A lot of careful thought and consideration went into these recommendations and employing them will help strengthen New York’s already booming alcoholic beverage industry by eliminating barriers and opening doors for new business opportunities.”

New York Wine & Grape Foundation President Jim Trezise said, “We applaud Governor Cuomo’s proactive, common sense approach to having government and industry partner in reviewing an antiquated, economically counterproductive patchwork quilt of laws. Chairman Vincent Bradley and his colleagues at the New York State Liquor Authority did an excellent job coordinating a complicated process involving many different interests. It is ‘entrepreneurial government’ at its best.”

Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association Executive Director Scott Wexler said, “The report of the working group represents the progress that can be achieved when a group of diverse interests works collaboratively to move the industry forward. The thousands of taverns and restaurants we represent thank Governor Cuomo and Chairman Bradley for convening the working group and look forward to turning these long-overdue recommendations into law.”

Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on the ABCL Working Group. The Working Group brought together a diverse group of industry, legal and consumer experts to review laws written more than 80 years ago. The Working Group’s recommendations remove unnecessary bureaucratic impediments to obtaining licenses and complying with the state’s ABC laws. The recommendations bring the ABC laws into the 21st Century and recognize the important role the wine, cider, beer and spirits industries are playing in New York State’s economy.”

Danow, McMullan & Panoff Partner Keven Danow said, “Governor Cuomo has kept his promise to do everything in his power to make New York a friendly place for business. At his request, Chairman Bradley empaneled a working group of Beverage Alcohol Industry Members to review the Alcoholic Beverage Law and make recommendations as to ways to streamline and improve our laws without weakening the protections our citizens enjoy. The Governor and Chairman Bradley have earned the praise and respect of industry and consumers alike.”

Robert Bookman, Counsel to the NYC Hospitality Alliance said, “The NYC Hospitality Alliance, representing thousands of the City’s restaurants, bars nightclubs and hotels, was honored to be a part of the Working Group and we thank the Governor and the SLA for cooperative discussions that will lead to needed reforms to the ABC law, reforms that will benefit the industry, our employees and the millions of New Yorkers and visitors who frequent our establishments.”

Tuthilltown Spirits Founder and Master Distiller Ralph Erenzo said, “Thanks to the Governor and Chairman Bradley for an opportunity to work with the other stakeholders in New York’s emerging artisan beverage industry on the Law Revision Working Group. The report will help New York spirits, wine, beer and cider to flourish by suggesting revisions that provide clear language text and remove unnecessary barriers to entry for new producers. Changes also include expanding access to markets for beverage sales.”

New York State Liquor Store Association President Tom Edwards said, “What a truly gratifying experience to have industry leaders come together and find common ground. On behalf of the New York State Liquor Store Association and its membership, a big thank you to Governor Cuomo and Chairman Bradley!”

New York State Beer Wholesalers Association President Steve Harris said, “We thank Governor Cuomo and Chairman Bradley for convening this diverse group of representatives, from New York’s large established manufacturers to the newest small craft producers, to examine and make recommendations for modernizing the 80 year old ABC law. These recommendations will build on the progress made over the past five years and help further strengthen and grow this vital industry while recognizing and preserving the validity of our State’s three tier system.”

Food Industry Alliance of New York State President & CEO Michael Rosen said, “We want to thank Governor Cuomo and Chairman Bradley for taking the initiative on modernizing the alcohol laws and to eliminate many antiquated provisions that burdened the trade without protecting the public in a meaningful way. Food store operators across New York appreciate the time, effort and leadership it took to forge a consensus on this well drafted proposal. Cheers!”

Buchman Law Firm Managing Partner Mark Koslowe said, “Much thanks to the Governor, Chairman Bradley and his distinguished colleagues and staff for their hard work in assembling the initial agenda and subsequent amendments and comments which enabled the Working Group to reach consensus on issues for New York’s alcoholic beverage industry and especially the emerging artisan beverage arena. The report will be a useful aid in providing current and future guidance for the Industry by suggesting revisions that provide clear language text and remove unnecessary barriers for the trade. Efforts by all participants should be lauded.”

North American Breweries Senior Counsel Kelly Diggins said, “New York State is poised to simplify its alcoholic beverage control laws and help our beer, wine, spirit and cider industry continue to thrive. Congratulations to our Governor and Chairman Bradley for creating such a participatory and common-sense approach that allowed industry members to weigh in and make recommendations.”