Prohibition is (almost) over in New York State

Published 12:11 a.m. ET June 18, 2016

If you’ve ever wondered why you couldn’t order a Bloody Mary with your Sunday brunch or have a toast with your friends before your 11 a.m. tee time, you can chalk it up to New York state’s 1934 law that prohibited restaurants, bars and athletic stadiums, bowling alleys and golf courses from selling alcohol before noon on Sundays.

The Sunday “blue laws” as they’re known, date back to a statute that created the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control laws following the end of Prohibition — citing, in part, the need to observe the Sunday Sabbath.

Legislation was advancing in the state Senate to relax the law, but hit a snag.

Thankfully, as lawmakers approached the end of their 2016 session, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein announced an agreement Tuesday to pass legislation that will modernize New York’s more than 80-year-old ABC Law.

The passage of the “brunch bill,” as it’s known, will now allow restaurants to serve beer, wine and cocktails starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays — one step closer to tearing down the remnants of prohibition that still challenge our industry today.

This opportunity will make it possible for restaurants to add another seating on a weekend day and the increase in revenue, staff wages and purchasing will filter back into our community in the form of higher standards of living across the hospitality industry.

The agreement includes several other amendments that will ensure that the 900 wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries in New York continue to thrive, including: easing of burdensome paperwork requirements for craft manufacturers, authorized sale of wine in growlers, reduced fees for craft beverage salespeople, reduced fees for small wholesalers and more.

The Rochester Craft Beverage Trail would like thank Gov. Cuomo, Assemblyman Joseph Morrelle, the New York State Restaurant Association and our own members of the Rochester Craft Beverage Trail for working together on the passage of the “brunch bill,” which will allow for continued growth in the craft beverage industry in Rochester and across New York state.

Jason Barrett is owner and head distiller of Black Button Distilling and founder and president of the Rochester Craft Beverage Trail.