New Yorkers may soon be able to legally sip a Bloody Mary, Mimosa and other alcoholic drinks at brunch before noon on Sundays at restaurants and taverns, and they will have the Buffalo Bills in part to thank for it.
Two versions of the “brunch bill” that would allow taverns and restaurants to serve alcohol before noon were sent Thursday to the Senate Finance Committee, which is often a final step before bills go to the Senate floor for passage. One bill sponsored by Sen. Thomas O’Mara (R-Elmira) would allow alcoholic beverages to be sold at 8 a.m. and the other, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island), would open bars at 10 a.m.
The bills wouldn’t legalize an earlier opening statewide for all bars and restaurant, which aren’t allowed to serve alcohol before noon. Instead, they would create a permit system carrying a fee of up to $250 annually for establishments that apply.
Both bills have similar counterparts in the Assembly. The 8 a.m. bill has a powerful sponsor in Majority Leader Joseph Morelli (D-Rochester). Assemb. Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx) is sponsoring a 10 a.m. bill.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is pushing a similar proposal backed by recommendations from his working group on updating alcohol control laws.
Cuomo’s working group reported in April that the issue bubbled up when the Buffalo Bills played an NFL game in London. That game was televised at 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday in Buffalo, drawing big crowds to taverns where NFL fans couldn’t legally drink. The report noted that a similar situation will arise when the New York Giants play an upcoming game in England and that the issue is further pressed by the increasing clientele to watch European soccer games that are often carried on Sunday mornings in the Eastern time zone.
Also moving in the Legislature’s final two weeks is a bill that would allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol at 8 a.m. in Erie County, home of the Bills. On Thursday that bill, sponsored by Sen. Timothy Kennedy (D-Buffalo), was moved directly to a Senate floor vote, where it is expected to pass as early as next week.
The bills would be a further erosion of the decades-old “blue laws” that had at one time required most businesses to be closed on Sundays.