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New Yorkers can now booze at brunch starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer
Donald Barr, Flickr

Ever get to Sunday brunch ready to guzzle a mimosa only to be met with this disappointing response from your waiter: “Sorry, we don’t serve alcohol till noon.” Well, now early bird New York brunchers can purchase alcohol starting at 10 a.m.

Earlier this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced legislation to modernize the 80-year-old Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (ABC), colloquially called the "brunch bill." Among other amendments, the ABC Law allows restaurants, bars and taverns to open at 10 a.m. on Sundays (Current law allows establishments to start serving alcohol at 8 a.m. every other day of the week).

The bill passed 62-0 in the state Senate on Thursday and 106-21 in the state Assembly on Friday.

James Allen, Cuomo’s communications director, says there was fairly broad bipartisan support. It was not a controversial issue because he commissioned a group of community and industry leaders in November to come up with recommendations that would modernize the blue laws that govern all things alcohol-related in New York.

Scott Wexler, the executive director of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association, was part of this working group. He says that though the bill passed with tremendous support, the process was actually quite contentious.

Most of the 21 dissenters came from New York City members concerned that the change would lead to rowdier and noisier streets, said Wexler.

“Many of the people who have lived there their whole lives, who brought the community to where it’s at now, are often complaining about the nuisance, the noise, that is in the community now,” Brooklyn Assemblywoman Maritza Davila told Politico. “I’m in opposition to the bill only because I grew up in that community, and I know that in other rural areas it’s a really nice thing to add, but there has to be some control somewhere.”

Boosting the bottom line

The NYC Hospitality Alliance, which represents thousands of the city's restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotels, was a part of of Cuomo’s working group. Robert Bookman, counsel to the Alliance, believes the two-hour change will have a meaningful impact on small businesses.

“ABC reforms will benefit the industry, our employees and the millions of New Yorkers and visitors who frequent our establishments,” he said.

Wexler says he’s been advocating ABC reform for the past 30 years and is pleased that New York legislators have taken their suggestions into account.

“Any time you can reduce government involvement so that it’s simpler for small business owners to actually run their businesses, it’s a great thing,” he says.

Though it is unclear how much an additional two-hour window to serve alcohol will actually affect small businesses’ bottom line, Wexler has no doubt that it will have a positive economic impact. A medium-sized Albany restaurant owner calculated that he could bring in an additional $50,000 per year of added revenue, according to Wexler.

With most New York establishments opening up well before noon, Cuomo found the antiquated laws didn’t make much sense. “If customers wanted a drink with their breakfast they would either have to wait an hour or not order one at all — this was a consistent piece of feedback that we were receiving from small business owners who told us that it was an opportunity they were missing out on,” says Allen.

New York’s craft beverage boom

This ABC reform is part of Cuomo’s greater push to embrace the craft beverage industry. “The governor has been a champion of the craft beverage industry and this bill is part of his legacy in terms of listening to what small businesses want and need,” says Allen.

New York has nearly 900 wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries, and the number of farm wineries in the state has increased by nearly 60%, from 195 in 2010 to 310 today. Plus, the number of microbreweries has grown by 263%, according to Allen. Cuomo, who has been governor since 2011, has also approved creation of two new licenses—the farm brewery license and the farm cidery license.

And beyond expanding Sunday sales, other amendments include streamlining the paperwork requirements for craft manufacturers—licenses will be bundled into a single application. In addition, liquor stores to sell gift wrapping and gift bags to their customers.

Cuomo will sign the provisions into law next week.

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