Caterers seek yearly permit

Life for New York caterers who serve alcohol could improve if legislation that would end a burdensom

Life for New York caterers who serve alcohol could improve if legislation that would end a burdensome permitting process is approved.

Last year, the state Senate passed legislation that would allow caterers to apply for one permit to serve alcohol at multiple events throughout the year, instead of requiring the caterer to get a permit for each event where alcohol is served. That proposal is back in the Senate, and sponsor Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, thinks the start of a new legislative session improves the bill’s chance to pass both chambers of the Legislature.

“We’re hoping by moving the bill early, we can build a head of steam that will help pass it in the Assembly,” Seward said.

He got interested in this issue about three years ago when a caterer in his district described the hassles and expense of the process, which was redundant for caterers who had to apply for new permits that didn’t contain any new information aside from the venue. Under his proposal, caterers would get one permit for the year, at a fee of $250, and would be required to notify the State Liquor Authority five business days before each function where they planned to serve alcohol.

“It’s a streamlined approach,” Seward said. “This is just one example of making New York more business friendly by cutting away the red tape.”

“This is something I would very much like to see happen,” he said.

The proposal would be a welcome change for Angelo Mazzone, who owns several Capital Region restaurants as well as an active catering business. He caters more than 100 events a year where he serves alcohol and that ends up costing him more than $4,800 a year on permits, based on the $48 cost per permit, according to the state Liquor Authority.

“I think that’s a great idea,” Mazzone said. “I don’t think anybody would have a problem with that.”

William Crowley, a spokesman for the state Liquor Authority, said that permits are currently granted 15 days in advance of an event and the process is used for a “host of reasons.” He said the individual permitting process lets them check up on the legitimacy of the caterer and the venue, which results in rejections of permits each year.

As to the new legislation, Crowley didn’t have a comment on it, as he hadn’t reviewed it.

Kevin Brown, co-owner of Cafe NOLA in Schenectady, which caters a handful of events each year, said he would be more inclined to seek catering events where alcohol is served if the permit process was simpler. He described the current process as “very confusing to say the least.”

Peter Guidarelli, owner of Rotterdam’s Villa Tuscan Grille, said the relaxed process would be “a welcome change for an industry that is plagued with regulation upon regulation.”

Under the current requirements, Guidarelli said he doesn’t serve alcohol because it requires to much administrative work. He characterized the new requirements as a common sense change, which would also hold caterers accountable for the serious task of serving alcohol.

“This would probably help us get more business and expand the level of services we provide to the tune of 15 to 20 events throughout the year, which could have a positive significant impact on our business,” Guidarelli said.

In the Assembly, the bill is sponsored by Assemblyman William Magee, D-Nelson, who acknowledged the legislation is not his biggest priority, but said he believes it is necessary.

Magee described the current permit process as a “real headache” for caterers.

A spokeswoman for the Assembly Committee on Economic Development said the proposal is under review. She said it was too early in the session to comment on a specific bill.

In the Senate, the bill moved from the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations on Monday to the Senate Committee on Finance.

Categories: Business, Schenectady County

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