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Yes, modernize New York’s alcohol laws

June 9, 2016
Editorial , Lake Placid News

We often disagree with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but we also give credit where it is due.

The governor recently unveiled a proposal to make several changes to modernize the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Law: allowing alcohol sales in bars and restaurants starting at 8 a.m. on Sundays instead of noon, reducing paperwork for craft manufacturers, reducing fees for craft beverage salespeople and small wholesalers, letting wineries sell wine in reusable growlers like breweries can, and letting people take partly finished wine bottles home from a restaurant.

These changes are likely to benefit the burgeoning craft beer and spirits industry in the Adirondacks, which already gives visitors more of a reason to come here. Restaurant and bar owners have told us New York's 80-year-old ABC Law is something of an anachronism - more burdensome than it needs to be, dating from a time too soon after Prohibition. The rules need to be just strong enough to cover the risks, and no more.

There are two potential sticking points to this legislation, as we see it: a slight increase in binge drinking one morning a week, and Gov. Cuomo's plan to give the state Liquor Authority more discretion to approve liquor licenses to businesses located within 200 feet of schools or places of worship.

Here's a sobering thought: 21.7 percent of adults in Essex County and 15.7 percent in Franklin County self-reported that they were binge drinkers in 2015, according to the state Department of Health. The state average is 17.7 percent. Keeping that in mind, relaxing the start time one morning a week isn't likely to have much of a negative impact on public well-being, and it would have a positive economic effect on the hospitality industry during peak tourism weekends. Bar and restaurant owners who want the earlier Sunday alcohol sales time will have to make sure patrons aren't overdoing it. We expect most local bars and their employees would do that anyway. They and their mostly well-behaved customers shouldn't lose out on this commerce on account of a few bad apples.

We would hope any changes to the 200-foot rule would take local input into account. Many downtowns have enough vacant storefronts that new bars and restaurants could be steered away from churches and schools fairly easily. Perhaps the 200-foot rule is due for an update, but the spirit of it should be kept alive if local people want it that way.

Our area potentially has something to gain from Gov. Cuomo's proposal to update the state's alcohol control laws. The state legislature should approve them.



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