Alcohol laws can change

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently unveiled a proposal to make several changes to the state’s alcohol control laws: allowing alcohol sales in bars and restaurants starting at 8 a.m. on Sundays instead of noon, reducing paperwork for craft manufacturers, reducing fees for craft beverage salespeople and reducing fees for small wholesalers. These changes, particularly allowing alcohol sales starting at 8 a.m. on Sundays, sound sensible.

There are two sticking points to this legislation as we see it: an increase in binge drinking, particularly during the NFL season, and Cuomo’s plan to give the state Liquor Authority more discretion to approve liquor licenses to businesses located within 200 feet of schools or places of worship. We would hope any changes to the 200- foot rule would take into account local input about allowing a drinking establishment near a church or school. It’s important for the state to remember the majority opinion can vary quite dramatically from municipality to municipality. For example, people in Gloversville may find having a drinking establishment within 100 feet of a church or school inappropriate, while residents of nearby towns might be fine with it.

Those in favor of the earlier 8 a.m. start for alcohol sales on Sundays should take heed of one note of caution: 19.1 percent of adults in Fulton County reported binge drinking, according to information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. That is higher than the U.S. median of 16.3 percent. The earlier starting time will boost business to the hospitality industry during peak tourism times. Bar and restaurant owners who want the earlier 8 a.m. Sunday alcohol sales time should be aware they will have to make sure patrons aren’t overdoing it. Most area bars and their employees do that already. They shouldn’t lose out on potential business on account of a few bad apples.

Ultimately, Fulton and Montgomery counties could benefit from Cuomo’s proposal to update the state’s alcohol control laws. The state Legislature should approve them.

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