Streamline liquor laws

Editorial Board

6:24 p.m. EDT April 17, 2016

Democrat & Chronicle


Here’s what was happening in 1934: Rent was about $20 a month; the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression; and New York state enacted the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, creating the State Liquor Authority and the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

We’ve seen tremendous change since 1934. Well, except in the case of New York’s liquor laws, where some regulations have evolved and some are seemingly holdouts from the temperance movement. At a time when the Empire State is looking for ways to reduce the regulatory burdens that can drive up the cost of doing business in New York, updating some of the state’s old blue laws would be a good place to start.

That is why it is welcome news that the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law Working Group, which is overseen by the state Liquor Authority, recently releasedrecommendations to reorganize statutes and modernize laws regarding alcohol in the state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he’ll review the recommendations and make proposals. Albany lawmakers should pore over the 40-page report as well and  pass bills that make good sense for business and consumers.

Obtaining information for the proper license to sell alcoholic beverages should not be as difficult as finding a piece of cheese in a giant maze. Yet the arrangements of statutes can be perplexing. There are nine separate licenses for on-premises alcohol sales. The two licenses, for instance, that allow for beer sales can be found in Article 4 of the ABCL. But wait: If a business wants to sell wine as well as beer, it must look at Article 6 for those licenses. Want to sell liquor, wine and beer? Information on those licenses  are found in Article 5. The ABCL working group recommends the state consolidate its nine licenses for on-premise alcohol sales into three: one for beer, another for wine and a third for restaurants, bars or taverns that serve beer, wine and alcohol.

Cuomo recently said some of the state’s liquor laws go back to Prohibition and have never really been changed. While the restrictions of Sunday hours of alcohol sales have been changed, it’s still an archaic statute. Buffalo Bills fans found out just how moldy the state’s liquor laws are this past football season when the Bills played a game in London. The state’s blue laws prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages before noon on Sunday; the game was at 9:30 a.m. and restaurants and bars could not serve alcoholic beverages to patrons. And even if you are not a sports fan, a Sunday brunch with Mimosas is not allowed either.

Lest you think this Editorial Board is advocating booze flowing freely from the streets, we are not. Of course alcohol must be regulated. But it’s time for New York to pull its alcohol beverage control law out of the ’30s