Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation to Modernize New York’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law

September 8th, 2016 • by Paul Leone
Paul Leone

Paul Leone

Paul Leone is the Executive Director of the New York State Brewers Association.

  • For Immediate Release: 9/7/2016 GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO

    State of New York | Executive Chamber
    Andrew M. Cuomo | Governor

    New Law Expands Sunday Alcohol Sales at Restaurants and Bars as Part of Comprehensive Blue Laws Overhaul and Broadens Retail Sales by Producers

    Legislation Consolidates Licensing and Eases Regulatory Requirements for Wineries, Breweries, Distilleries and Cideries

    Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to modernize New York’s archaic 80-year-old Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, which included provisions prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages at on-premises establishments before noon on Sunday. The comprehensive legislation allows alcohol to be sold earlier on Sundays, adds common sense provisions to broaden retail sales by producers, and reduces burdensome fees for wineries, distilleries, breweries and cideries statewide. Over the last five years, Governor Cuomo has taken sweeping action to simplify regulations for the beverage industry, resulting in an unprecedented, three-fold increase in licensed wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries across the state. The Governor signed the legislation at the Genesee Brew House in Rochester.

    “New York’s burgeoning craft beverage industry has served as an economic generator for communities across the state and with this legislation, we are building on that progress,” Governor Cuomo said. “By cutting red tape, breaking down artificial barriers and rolling back arcane and burdensome regulations, we are setting the stage for this industry’s continued resurgence and future growth and I am proud to sign it into law.”

    Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said, “Small businesses and consumers throughout the state will greatly benefit from this reform of the state’s outdated blue laws that will expand Sunday brunch options and promote the continued success of New York’s service and beverage industries. I thank Senator Lanza for his efforts to get this legislation passed, and Governor Cuomo and our colleagues in the Assembly for working with us to help cut red tape and burdensome regulations so that more businesses can grow and thrive.”

    Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “New York is home to some of the best craft beer, cider, wine and spirits our country has to offer. This legislation updates and simplifies New York’s outdated Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws so that New York’s craft beverage industry can thrive and everyone can enjoy more of what our great state has to offer. I would like to thank Majority Leader Joe Morelle and Assemblymembers Robin Schimminger and Michael Benedetto for their hard work and leadership in making New York a great place to do business, inspiring tourism and opening the door for new opportunities.”

    Senator Andrew Lanza said, “This law will modernize state alcohol laws that in many cases date back to Prohibition while cutting red tape, lowering costs, and rolling back burdensome regulations. I thank Governor Cuomo and Majority Leader Flanagan for their efforts in making this important legislation law.”

    The law ensures that the craft beverage industry in New York continues to thrive by amending the ABC Law to include the following:

    • Expand Sunday Sales: The law expands Sunday sales at restaurants and bars by changing the statewide opening hours from noon to 10 am. In addition, the agreement enables these licensees to apply for a permit, limited to twelve per year, to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises on Sundays between 8 a.m. and the new 10 a.m. opening hour in areas outside New York City.
    • Eliminate Burdensome Paperwork Requirements for 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 separate facility. The law combines craft manufacturing licenses into one application to reduce burdensome paperwork for these small businesses.
    • Authorize the Sale of Wine in Growlers:Previous law required that wine sold at retail for off-premises consumption be kept in their original sealed containers, and consequently, New York wineries were prohibited from filling growlers. This prohibition unduly burdens wineries that can open a container to sell wine for on-premises consumption, or can sell wine for off-premises consumption, but cannot fill a growler to be taken away from the winery. The law enacts a common sense change to allow wineries to fill their customers’ growlers. In addition, the law authorizes wineries and farm wineries to allow customers to take home partially finished bottles of wine.
    • Reduce Fees for Craft Beverage Salespeople:The ABC Law required that any salesperson or solicitor employed by a manufacturer or wholesaler must obtain a solicitor’s permit in addition to a bond. Recognizing the financial hardship imposed by these unnecessary additional fees, the law eliminates the fee for a solicitor’s permit for craft manufacturers and removes the bond requirement for all manufacturers.
    • Reduced Fees for Small Wholesalers:The primary business of most alcohol beverage wholesalers is selling their products to licensed retailers, such as bars, restaurants and liquor stores. However, there are currently a number of small wholesalers in New York that sell limited number of brands they import directly to large wholesalers for distribution to retailers. Under the ABC Law, these small wholesalers were required to pay the same amount for their license as their larger counterparts, with costs ranging from $1,460 for a one year beer license to $27,280 for a three year liquor wholesale license. This financial burden often required these small businesses to make a choice between continuing to hold a New York wholesale license or to relocate their business outside of New York. The law creates a low-cost “importer’s license” that is available to wholesalers who sell only to other wholesalers. These businesses may now obtain an importer’s license at a cost of only $125 a year.
    • Authorize Gift Wrapping:The law allows liquor stores to sell gift wrapping and gift bags to their customers.

    Legislation to amend the ABC Law was first proposed by Governor Cuomo in May as a direct result of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law Working Group – a blue ribbon panel created by Governor Cuomo in November 2015 and tasked with developing recommendations to modernize the laws governing the manufacturing, wholesale and retail of alcoholic beverages in New York State.

    Building on Prior Industry Reforms to Grow New York’s Economy

    The law builds on the progress made by the Governor over the past five years, including enacting the Craft New York Act, to cut burdensome requirements on producers and ease restrictions regarding the marketing of craft products. Since 2011, the state has implemented a number of significant reforms and expanded programs to grow the craft beverage industry, including creating new farm-based manufacturing licenses, launching a $60 million statewide promotional campaign and hosting wine, beer and spirits summits across the state.

    The success of New York’s investments in the craft beverage industry can be seen from the Finger Lakes to the North Fork of Long Island. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, New York is now home to over 900 wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries. The number of farm wineries in New York has increased by over 60 percent, from 195 in 2010 to 315 today. Additionally, the number of microbreweries has grown by 270 percent, from 40 in 2010 to 148, while the number of farm distilleries grew from just 10 in 2010 to 95 today. Two new licenses have been created since 2011: the farm brewery license in 2013 and the farm cidery license in 2014, with New York now home to 129 farm breweries and 22 farm cideries businesses.