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New Liquor Laws

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Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed several liquor-related legislative bills into law. This edition of Know the Law covers those changes most pertinent to licensees.

Expanded Sunday Hours for Off-Premises Wine and Liquor Sales

            Several of the recent amendments involve changes to New York’s so-called blue laws, which refer to laws that limit alcohol sales on Sundays. Among the most anticipated changes to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (“ABCL”) involves the off-premises sale of wine and liquor.

Section 105 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law now allows wine and package stores to open at 10:00 A.M. on Sundays, two hours earlier than previously allowed. The law went into effect immediately.

            Sunday hours have long been an object of controversy. In 1970, in the case Triolo v. Taylor, the Supreme Court of New York upheld the state’s prohibition against wine and liquor off-premises sales before noon on Sundays. A retailer challenged the law as being unreasonable and unconstitutionally discriminatory, depriving the retailer of lawful business. The Court held that the law was a valid exercise of legislative power because it was rooted in a reasonable basis: “to lessen the risk of intoxicants being placed into the hands of certain disturbers during the increased hours of closing and the time limitation imposed to accomplish this result was not unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious, as a matter of law” (citation omitted).

            Whether that concern still exists is an open question, but with this recent amendment, one thing is clear: the times are a changin’. At least on Sundays.

Beer Sales on Sunday Mornings No Longer Prohibited

            Sundays will also look different because of another change to the ABCL. Section 105-a of the ABCL long prohibited the sale of beer for off-premises consumption between 3:00 A.M. and 8:00 A.M. on Sundays. With the amendment, however, that prohibition is now repealed, effective immediately.

            The ABCL used to prohibit sales of beer until noon on Sundays, but the law was amended in 2006 to allow sales between 8:00 A.M. and noon.  With the new amendment, if at 3:00 A.M. a consumer realizes he or she is out of beer, the only impediment is finding a store that is open.

Combination Packages

            Many consumers like to give beverage alcohol as a holiday present. A traditional favorite is the “value-added combination package,” consisting of a bottle of wine or spirits and a gift item, such as a glass or bottle opener. These value-added combination packages have traditionally been limited to a single bottle of wine or spirits and non-edible, non-potable items reasonably used in the preparation or storage of liquor, wine or wine products.

Effective in January 2024, value-added combination packages are no longer limited to one bottle of wine or spirits. Multiple bottles may be included in a sealed, pre-wrapped package. In addition to items used in the preparation or storage of wine or spirits, the package may include merchandise used as gifts or promotional items that are “complimentary and directly associated with the sale of wine or distilled spirits.” The gift or promotional items added by the new law are limited in value to no more than $15.00, must be imprinted with the wine or spirits brand logo, and must be included as part of a manufactured pre-sealed package with the wine or spirits. Food, non-alcoholic beverages, or any other drink or food mix may not be included in a valued-added combination package.

            To accommodate this change, wine and liquor wholesalers and retailers, who are generally prohibited from conducting a second business on their licensed premises, will be expressly permitted to transport and sell gifts or promotional items in these combination packages. As before, retailers may not break down the combination package and sell the value-added item separately.

This article is not intended to give specific legal advice.  Before taking any action, the reader should consult with an attorney familiar with the relevant facts and circumstances.

Written by

Keven Danow

Founding and Senior Partner
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How We Got Here

Governor Hochul and the New York Legislature empaneled the NYSLA Commission to Study the Reform of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.

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