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NYS Liquor Authority announces expansion of options for businesses with liquor licenses in new budget


Wed, Apr 24th 2024 11:10 am

As service industry continues to recover, to-go drinks are extended and outdoor dining is made permanent; additional ABC Commission recommendations are put in place, bringing more opportunities for small businesses

Submitted by the Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

With the enactment of the fiscal year 2025 budget, the State Liquor Authority is highlighting significant changes to the alcoholic beverage control law. These measures will continue Gov. Kathy Hochul’s goal of modernizing the state’s often-antiquated ABC laws by injecting common sense and collaboration into New York’s alcohol industry.

“This ’24-’25 budget process is a successful one for our agency,” SLA Chair Lily Fan said. “It has been our longstanding intention to seek changes to our statute that would allow us to better support our applicants and licensees. We wholeheartedly thank the governor, her team, and our partners in both Houses for approving and delivering this package of improvements that will help members of our industry operate better. We look forward to continuing to support the modernization effort in the future while ensuring public safety, health and welfare.”

Several proposals included in this year’s budget are recommendations from a report issued in May 2023 by the Commission to Study Reform of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. Other items in the FY25 enacted budget address outdated statutes while enhancing the customer experience with more options to support a key cog in the state’s economy.

In the FY2023 budget, Hochul tasked the temporary Commission to Study Reform of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law – 21 members comprised of state agency heads and a diverse set of industry stakeholders – with voting to recommend changes to modernize and simplify the state’s 90-year-old ABC Law. Their efforts resulted in 18 recommendations to be considered for future legislative changes by the New York State Legislature.

Hochul signed two of those recommendations into law in October of 2023, while three more are included in this year’s enacted budget:

•Alcohol To-Go – A five-year extension will allow for the current “drinks to go” provision to continue through 2030, with those five years commencing from 2025.

•Community Notification – Allows applicants to simultaneously apply for a license and notify their municipality, and provides the SLA will not act on the application for 30 days in order to allow time for municipal input in the licensing process.

•One-Day Event Permits – Expands one-day special event permits to allow for the service of liquor. These one-day permits were previously restricted to beer and wine. This change creates parity for New York craft beverage manufacturers, in addition to providing catering businesses more opportunities by expanding their offerings.

•Temporary Wholesaler Permits – Creates a new permit to allow for wholesale applicants to obtain a temporary permit while their license is pending, allowing these businesses to begin operations more expeditiously.

Other business and guest-friendly measures include:

•Expanding Catering permits – The budget removes the requirement mandating catering permits be issued only for indoor functions or events, expanding opportunities for the hospitality industry and its customers.

•Wine/Liquor Stores at Street Level – The budget eliminates a prohibition-era law that required liquor stores to be located at street level in order to qualify for a license.

•Temporary Retail Permits – Extends the issuance of temporary retail permits to get businesses open and operating quickly.

•Allowing Liquor Beverage Sales in Movie Theaters – The budget allows for the service of spirits, in addition to beer and wine, at movie theaters that do not meet the definition of restaurants, which required a full kitchen with meals served to guests seated at tables. Previously, movie theaters not operating as restaurants were limited to beer and wine only.

•Makes Outdoor Dining Permanent – The budget makes permanent the service of alcohol on contiguous and non-contiguous municipal space, with the authorization of the municipality and the SLA, in addition to addressing service across bike lanes, thereby eliminating statutory ambiguity. This highly successful pandemic-era policy provision was set to expire July 5, 2025.

The NYS SLA and its agency arm, the division of alcoholic beverage control, were established as part of the alcoholic beverage control law (ABC law) in 1934. The ABC law was enacted by the Legislature to provide for the protection, health, welfare and safety of the people of the state. The SLA has two main functions: issuing licenses and permits, and ensuring compliance with the alcoholic beverage control law. The SLA’s licensing activities focus on the timely processing of permits and licenses. Its enforcement activities focus on the protection of the public by working with local law enforcement agencies and local communities to bring administrative actions against licensees who violate the law. The SLA works cooperatively with licensees, applicants, local law enforcement agencies, community groups, and our other partners across the state to ensure the industry is regulated in a fair and consistent manner.

New York State Sen. James Skoufis, chair of the Investigations and Government Operations Committee, said, "We should be doing everything in our legislative capacity to ensure small business owners get the support they need. Though there is much more work to do – and many important updates were dropped during negotiations – I am gratified to see positive and useful reforms to the antiquated ABC law included in the final state budget. Restaurants and taverns are critical to the fabric of our communities, and their economic success has a wide-spreading effect, impacting communities as a whole. I look forward to working with them and the SLA’s leadership as we continue to modernize the statute for businesses and consumers alike."

New York State Sen. Leroy Comrie, chair of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions, said, "I'm pleased to see so many common-sense policy changes enacted in the budget modernizing the State Liquor Authority and alcoholic beverage control laws. After holding the first SLA public hearing in years, and hearing from industry leaders, I am proud that many of the desperately needed changes sought will come to fruition and help to better serve the entrepreneurs in the hospitality sector, as well as the evolving consumer marketplace in New York. Many other measures are still needed to allow the SLA to optimize its efficiency, and I am committed to working with Chair Fan to help deliver these measures." 

Brian Facquet of New York State Distillers Guild, said, “Gov. Hochul’s commitment to the modernization of antiquated SLA laws has been a welcomed shift in policy, which will benefit every tier in the three-tier system. The one-day event, which would allow sales by the glass at events like the NYS Fair, is another step towards parity with NYS beer, wine and cider by allowing sales of cocktails at events like the NYS Fair.”

New York Cider Association Executive Director Scott Ramsey said, "We are thrilled to see many of the recommendations made by the ABC Commission as part of the 2025 budget. These are common-sense measures that allow businesses to interact with consumers in a 2024 contemporary marketplace. New York cider has grown into a $1.7 billion total economic impact industry annually and is directly tied to the agricultural landscape of NY state. These updates provide our growers and producers the opportunity to build their businesses in a meaningful way while expanding their contribution to the economy and local job markets. We are very appreciative of Gov. Hochul, Chairwoman Lily Fan, and the entire NYSLA team for working so diligently to understand the needs of small businesses and consumers all while maintaining the integrity and safety of NY state citizens."

New York State Restaurant Association President and CEO Melissa Fleischut said, “We thank Gov. Hochul and the State Legislature for their leadership in securing meaningful change that will support the hospitality industry in New York state. As we all know, economic challenges persist. Measures included in the enacted budget, like streamlining and simplifying licensing issues, make a difference to small business owners across the state. Additionally, extending drinks to-go and making outdoor dining permanent are critical to expanding revenue streams amid a tumultuous financial outlook. We must continue to create opportunities to boost the economy and uplift the entire restaurant industry."

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