Lawmakers Agree to Loosen Alcohol Laws


June 14, 2016 8:33 p.m. ET

Wall Street Journal


ALBANY—With the legislative session set to end this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced agreements Tuesday on laws to overhaul state alcohol policies and combat heroin abuse.

The agreement on alcohol, which still needs legislative approval, would allow restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 10 a.m. rather than noon on Sundays, and some restaurants outside New York City to begin serving alcohol as early as 8 a.m.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, pushed for the change after a panel of alcohol manufacturers he convened recommended it.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican, said laws “which barred those enjoying brunch from purchasing an alcoholic beverage” are outdated.

The law to combat heroin, which also needs legislative approval, will seek to help increase access to treatment for opioid addiction and monitor the use of prescription drugs. Mr. Cuomo said it would save lives.

Among other measures, the agreement requires insurers to cover inpatient treatment for as long as they is needed. Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie indicated Tuesday that he expects the state to pursue further measures to counter heroin and opioid abuse.

“It’s just a beginning,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s an ending of what we want to do.”

He added: “There’s a lot of things the governor said he would do administratively.”

Asked if there might be a contradiction between the two agreements struck on Tuesday—one to loosen alcohol laws and the other to combat substance abuse—Mr. Heastie demurred.

“People want to go have brunch on Sunday, and some people like to have a mimosa,” he said. “It’s not so much that we want to do things to encourage people to drink.”

Other last-minute bills were introduced Tuesday in the Legislature, some with little or no chance of passage. In the Senate, a bill supported by the real-estate industry would break a stalemate between it and construction unions over a developer property-tax exemption known as 421-a.

But a construction-union official said it was an “11th-hour P.R. show” and that there were no signs that further negotiations were under way.

—Josh Barbanel contributed to this article.