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Governor seeks reasonable changes to alcohol law

Governor seeks reasonable changes to alcohol law

Let’s try to get inside the head of the New York state legislator who came up with the idea to limit

Let’s try to get inside the head of the New York state legislator who came up with the idea to limit the sale of alcohol on Sundays to no earlier than noon.

“It’s Sunday. And the Bible says we don’t drink on Sunday. Before noon, anyway. At least I think I read it in there somewhere.”

That’s one thought.

Or maybe: “This is New York. And in New York, we always try to do as much as we can to make life inconvenient for our residents and costly for the companies trying to do business here, like liquor stores and restaurants and convenience shops. So let’s arbitrarily limit the hours when someone can buy a product that’s perfectly legal to purchase at any other time.”

If that wasn’t the thinking, then what was it?

Thankfully, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going against New York’s natural tendency to tax and regulate every aspect of our lives by proposing reasonable, overdue changes to the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control law.

The highlight of the proposal is an amendment that would allow restaurants, bars and taverns to obtain a permit to sell alcohol on the premises between 8 a.m. and noon on Sundays.

That would allow those businesses to offer alcoholic beverages during times when people might want a drink with their brunch or early lunch. Bloody Marys and mimosas would no longer be illegal to sell (or consume) at Sunday morning brunches in New York.

The change could help boost business at those places.

Worried about more drunk driving by people sipping spritzers at brunch? The same DWI laws would apply before noon as they do after.

But why stop there? The governor should expand the proposal to businesses that sell alcohol for off-premise purchase as well. How many times have you tried to buy beer or wine on Sunday morning for your picnic or your Sunday afternoon football party and been denied because it was too early? Or tried to grab a bottle of spirits as a last-minute gift on the way to the in-laws’ house on Christmas Day? What’s the difference if you buy a case of beer at 10 a.m. or 12:01 p.m. or on December 25? It’s pointless, arcane and counterproductive to free enterprise in New York. Just get rid of the sale/purchase deadlines statewide and let us think for ourselves.

In addition, the governor’s plan removes other regulations that stifle the state’s liquor business, including one prohibiting liquor licenses within 200 feet of a school or place of worship. The restriction was enacted in 1892. The governor’s proposal would allow the state Liquor Authority to consider an application within that range, as long as everyone around the business was notified and given a chance to comment at a public hearing. Sounds reasonable and fair.

The change is not going to corrupt school children, since the places still won’t be able to serve to minors. It would just allow more freedom to operate a business.

Another change would allow people to purchase wine in “growlers.” If passed, you’d be able to take home the bottle you sampled during your visit to the winery or take home some wine from the tap. Right now, you have to purchase the wine in a new, sealed container or drink it before you get in your car to leave.

The governor also wants to reduce paperwork that stifles new businesses and makes it more difficult and costly for proprietors large and small to get the necessary licenses and permits. He’s also calling for a reduction in fees on craft beverage sales people and small wholesalers.

All of these changes, slight as they might be, are designed to make commerce in New York a little easier, more profitable and less costly to businesses and more convenient to New York residents.

With that kind of thinking, maybe we could see the beginning of a trend in New York, where the thought behind legislation starts with getting the government off the people’s backs.

Hmmm. One can only hope.

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