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Cuomo signs updated alcohol law, booze now OK with Sunday brunch

courtesy Twitter account of State Sen. Tim Kennedy

You'll no longer need to wait until noon to have an alcoholic beverage with your Sunday brunch. An earlier serving time is just one of several components in updated state alcohol legislation signed Wednesday in Rochester by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The ceremonial signing took place inside the Genesee Brew House. By signing the updated Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (ABC), Governor Cuomo said  he was updating legislation that was written back in the prohibition era and prohibiting today's wine and beer makers from growing their business.

"It was just out of date with what we were trying to do," Cuomo said. "We're trying to be creative. We're trying to be entrepreneurial. Wineries now want to do tastings. Wineries now want to serve a little food. They want to be able to sell from the winery. They want to be able to ship. Breweries, the same thing. And the laws actually discouraged it."

As part of updated legislation, fees for sellers and wholesalers are reduced. Certain paperwork that craft manufacturers previously needed to complete has been eliminated. Wineries can now fill growlers with their product, as some beer retailers have already been able to do.

The part of the new law most notable for the general public is the allowance of alcohol sales by restaurants on Sunday mornings. People attending a Sunday brunch may now order their mimosa, champagne, Bloody Mary or other desired drink beginning at 10 a.m.

Ellie Grenauer, who is with the Western New York Chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association and also co-owner of the Glen Park Tavern in Williamsville, says those two hours will make a big difference for many establishments.

"It means my bartender gets a couple more hours, so she's making more money," Grenauer said. "Typically in the past I would bring her in at noon, because I couldn't serve alcohol before then, and we'd have customers sitting at the bar waiting for us to serve them a drink at noon."

The updated ABC law allows establishments an opportunity to sell Sunday drinks even earlier on special occasions, with prior approval. Under the updated legislation, restaurants may apply for one-time permits that would allow Sunday alcohol sales to begin at 8 a.m., up to twelve times per year.

Governor Andrew Cuomo comments on his signature of legislation which updates New York's Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. (Thanks to WXXI Rochester)

The updated ABC legislation does the following, according to Governor Cuomo's office:

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.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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