Alcohol farm

Take-out alcohol is an important start, but there is still a long way to go

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Amidst the well-deserved cheers for Governor Kathy Hochul’s plea for make take-out alcohol available at all times New York’s bars and restaurants, corners of the state’s archaic alcohol laws remain unanswered.

While former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has definitely given a boost to the state’s alcoholic beverage industry, pushing through favorable legislation and other measures that have seen the number of wineries, breweries, distilleries As cider houses and hydrofoils soar, most of these companies remain hampered by the inability to ship their products directly to consumers.

A point of pride for the New York alcohol industry is its “firm” category of producers, which offers benefits to manufacturers who use only New York ingredients in their wine, beer, spirits, cider and more. mead. Think about Neuf Pins cider house and Albany Distilling Co., both in Albany, and Altamont Vineyard & Winery in Altamont. The corn, rye, and barley used in Albany Distilling’s Ironweed Bourbon are grown in New York; Nine Pin’s apples come primarily from an orchard in Columbia County; Altamont vineyard and cellarits grapes come, as its name suggests, from its own vineyard.

But only wineries can send their products directly to you. Like a reference page on the State Liquor Authority’s website states, “Yes, wineries, unlike other types of liquor makers in New York State, have the right to direct the shipment to the consumer. “

The retail megastore Empire wine in Colonie will be happy to take online orders for Albany Distilling and Nine Pin products and deliver them directly to your door the next day. Need it even faster? Laviano wines and liqueurs at Guilderland usually has orders for me within hours. But most agricultural producers in New York cannot ship directly. And that’s unfair.

“It would make a huge difference for us,” said Alejandro del Peral, co-founder and head cider of Nine Pin. “People ask all the time, and every time we have to explain that the law does not allow it. We are just looking for parity between all agricultural producers.

“Being able to ship directly to consumers would be great,” said Rick Sicari, co-owner of Albany Distilling. Other injustices in Sicari’s eyes are that wineries, cider houses, and meads are allowed to have five tasting rooms, called branches, but distilleries are limited to one, and excise taxes are much higher for New York agricultural distillers than for other producers.

Additionally, Sicari said, given that Hochul’s take-out alcohol proposal only mentioned bars and restaurants, it is not clear that tasting rooms would also be allowed to resume their sale. Take-out cocktails have been a major source of income for the first 15 months of the pandemic, Sicari said, and he would welcome their return. California has a new law, in effect from the beginning of this year until the end of 2026, which could serve as at least a partial model for take-out alcohol in New York. It allows bars, restaurants, breweries and tasting rooms for wineries, distilleries and breweries to sell distilled spirits in manufacturer-sealed containers as well as individual cocktails and individual servings of wine.

I’ve said it a few times before, but it bears repeating: New York’s liquor laws for the manufacture, distribution and sale are a messy patchwork, with changes and other updates. applied to regulations which, in some cases, date back almost 90 years, to the end of the Ban.

Consider: When the law establishing agricultural distilleries was passed, it did not have a provision allowing a tasting room in a distillery to sell branded glassware, although other agricultural producers can. According to a strict reading of the law, since the distillery did not make the glasses itself, it could not sell them, but a cider house could offer glasses made for it by an outside company.

“It just wasn’t in the law. Whoever drafted the bill forgot to copy and paste this part,” said Joe Bonilla, an Albany lobbyist who represents manufacturers such as Nine Pin and Albany. Distilling. Another measure had to be adopted to remedy the omission.

New laws are passed and they (usually) help. But the fundamental overhaul that everyone agrees is necessary has not taken place. And it probably won’t. As we saw with last year’s ridiculous fight to expand take-out alcohol, even the most fundamental change – a change with obvious benefit to manufacturers and restaurants that is also being backed by three quarters. publicity, such as take-out alcohol – can be scuttled by vested interests with undue influence over lawmakers. In the case of take out liquor, it is the liquor store lobby that is hindering progress.

And to be clear, takeout alcohol isn’t legal yet, although a Coxsackie bar badly announced on Wednesday that he was “effective immediately !!” Bills that would allow this have not been able to get out of their respective committees, let alone the entire legislature for consideration. In the briefing book of the Hochul State State Address last Wednesday (see page 115), the verb tense is in the future, not in the conditional: “Governor Hochul will permanently authorize the sale of take-out drinks for consumption outside establishments in order to continue to support the recovery of bars and restaurants. “

No, she habit. The legislator will do it. Or rather, maybe. Unlike Cuomo, who under pandemic emergency powers could issue an executive order in March 2020 allowing takeout alcohol to bars and restaurants, Hochul cannot do it unilaterally. But here is hoping that his advocacy will stiffen the backbone of the elect who so far have not been willing to do the right thing. Transfer take out alcohol permanently and then start troubleshooting the rest of the issues as well.