ALBANY – A new report released this month has issued recommendations to update the state’s Beverage Control Law, which include expanding store hours for liquor and wine stores and allowing establishments like bars to stay open later for special occasions on weekends.
The temporary state Commission to Study Reform of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law was created in last year’s state budget agreement and the commission held meetings last year to weigh many changes to the state’s nearly 100 year-old law. The commission issued a report with its recommendations earlier this month.
The 10-member body voted in favor of several changes to the law. One proposal will allow liquor and wine stores to open their doors at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Currently, liquor and wine stores are not allowed to open until noon on Sundays.
It also recommends bars and similar establishments should be allowed to obtain all-night permits on weekends, which are currently only allowed on week days. While voting in favor of the change, several commission members used events like New Year’s Eve and the recent World Cup games as examples for allowing businesses to acquire permits to operate into the early hours.
While voting in favor, attorney Keven Danow wrote, “All night permits are most often asked for on New Year’s Eve. There is no good reason to restrict such permits because New Year’s Eve happens to fall on a Sunday.”
The commission also recommends expanding the number of items liquor and wine stores are allowed to sell, such as tonic water, lottery tickets and fruit.
Not all the measures passed. Proposals to allow grocery sales of beer during 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Sundays and to allow grocery stores to sell liquor and wine in-store ultimately failed.
Evan Gallo is currently chief of investigations and counsel for state Sen. James Skoufis, D-Flushing, and was a member of the commission. He voted against the measure.
“We do need to be mindful of businesses that have been established and operating in New York for a very, very long time and that they do well,” he told the Daily Gazette. “If we open up wine and liquor sales in grocery stores, that would potentially be the death knell for our local mom-and-pop retailers. That’s just a little bit of a bridge too far.”
The report and its recommendations do not automatically change the state’s current beverage law. The recommendations now go to the state Legislature to be voted on. Gallo said the state Senate is committed to enacting the recommendations before the legislative session ends on June 8th.
“That is our goal,” he said. “I can’t speak for the [Assembly] or the governor, but we are very interested in reform in this space and [the report] really teed up a lot of these issues very nicely by having the endorsement of such a cross section of the industry. Now is the time to do something.”