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Recommendations To Change New York’s Alcohol Laws

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As part of the fiscal year 2023 New York State Budget, the Legislature and Governor Hochul created the Commission to Study Reform of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. The law assigned certain topics to the Commission and asked that the Commission make recommendations regarding those assigned topics.

Following a series of meetings and votes, the Commission made several recommendations. The Commission suggested that the law requiring applicants to give 30 days’ advanced notice to municipalities and community boards served to delay the licensing process. Inasmuch as it takes considerably longer than thirty days for the State Liquor Authority (“SLA”) to review and process an application, the Committee recommended that applicants be permitted to submit both the 30-day notice to municipality or community board and the application for the liquor license to SLA at the same time. The SLA could then initiate its review of the application but not issue a permanent license until at least 30 days have passed. This would give the local governing bodies time to provide input but not delay the process.

The Commission also recommended that temporary permits be available to all new on-premises applicants in New York City. Under the current law, only those premises at which there is or was an active liquor license within the past two years are eligible. Outside New York City, there is no such two-year requirement. Moreover, the Commission recommended eliminating the portions of the law that require a hearing and a finding of a public interest before an on-premises license can be issued, as is mandated when there are three or more on-premises liquor licenses within 500 feet of the proposed premises. The Commission also recommended eliminating laws restricting licenses within 200 feet of a school or place of worship.

Similarly, the Commission recommended the removal of the provisions in the law that forbid the issuance of an all-night permit. Currently when New Years’ Day falls on a Sunday, the SLA cannot issue the necessary permit to allow the revelry to continue past 4:00 A.M.

Under the current law, the SLA must approve most ownership changes before the changes occur. The federal laws and regulations and the laws and regulations of most states allow the transfer to take place as long as an application is made either at the  time of the transfer or within a short time thereafter. New York’s restrictive law can hold up a sale for more than six months. The Commission recommended that the law be amended to permit the transfer subject to subsequent SLA approval. The Commission also recommended that package stores be permitted to open at 10 A.M. on Sundays. 

There were also numerous recommendations the Commission considered but did not advance.  The Commission rejected the proposal that the state take over the wholesale and retail distribution of alcoholic beverages. It also rejected allowing wine and read-to-drink cocktails to be sold in grocery stores or allowing beer to be sold in package stores. Although the Commission recommended allowing on-premises licensees to purchase a limited amount of wine and spirits from package stores, it rejected the concept of cooperative buying by package stores.

The Commission also could not muster sufficient votes to recommend allowing direct-to-consumer sales by manufacturers of beer, cider, wine products or distilled spirits.

The Commission’s full report is available on the SLA’s website at https://sla.ny.gov. Though the Commission’s recommendations are advisory only, members of the Legislature have received copies of the report. Industry members and consumers continue to lobby for and against changes to New York’s beverage-alcohol laws. Only time will tell which proposals find favor in the eyes of the Legislature and Governor.

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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