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New York: New efforts to support hospitality industry with more efficient liquor authority

Christian Fernsby |
Governor Kathy Hochul announced efforts to support the recovery of New York restaurants and bars.

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That is including the proposal to permanently legalize to-go drinks, and to ensure a more efficient State Liquor Authority.

The Governor highlighted these proposals and actions at an event at Therapy Wine Bar 2.0, a Brooklyn business that was able to open thanks to a law signed by the Governor in December to allow for temporary permits to serve alcohol.

Governor Hochul also announced proposals to update the state’s liquor laws and to fund operational improvements at the State Liquor Authority to revitalize the state’s multi-billion-dollar hospitality industry, one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic.

To ensure SLA's policies are as smart, efficient, and effective as possible, Governor Hochul additionally directed SLA to consult with industry representatives and stakeholders to review existing laws and identify red tape.

Aspects of the multifaceted approach to revitalizing New York’s hospitality industry contained in the Governor’s recent budget proposal include:

Increased Funding to Get Businesses Open Quickly: As New York’s hospitality industry was among the hardest hit by the pandemic, Governor Hochul has made opening businesses quickly a top priority.

The Governor has proposed adding $2 million in spending to the SLA’s budget to include the hiring of over 30 full-time employees. Flat and reduced budget and workforce numbers over the years have had an impact on the SLA’s efforts to significantly reduce processing times – which currently stand at 20-26 weeks.

A bar or restaurant without a temporary operating permit must either wait for its license before opening, or open without alcoholic beverage service, which represents as much as a third of its revenue.

With the influx of resources the Governor has proposed, the SLA will be able to trim months off of current processing times. Giving these months back to the businesses will allow them to generate revenue and hire staff sooner to better serve their neighbors and communities.

Streamlining the Application Process: The Governor’s budget also proposes cutting red tape to expedite the application process by eliminating burdensome and over-inclusive requirements currently required by law for applicants.

Extensive review by the SLA of licensing procedures determined time-consuming requirements, such as citizenship documentation and requiring financial documents and personal information from minority stakeholders, provide little value in licensing decisions and public health and safety, and create needless barriers to obtaining a license.

To-Go Drinks: The Governor’s budget also proposes, as a key part of her Billion Dollar Rescue Plan for small businesses, permanently bringing back to-go drinks for restaurants.

This policy provided a vital economic lifeline to our bar and restaurant industry during the pandemic, and reestablishing it, under proper limitations, will help to ensure our bars and restaurants get back on their feet and thrive.

Modernizing the SLA: As the agency charged with overseeing approximately 70,000 licenses and permits statewide and processing tens of thousands of applications annually, it is imperative the SLA continues to modernize and streamline its operations.

The Governor’s Budget continues funding for a comprehensive overhaul of the SLA’s decades-old licensing and compliance databases.

The current process requires mailing paper applications to the SLA, then scanning and logging, before they can be sent to an examiner for review. This and other processes can be handled more efficiently by computer programs. Under a new system, set to go live this year, applications and payment will be submitted electronically, eliminating the need for snail mail service and manual data entry, thus eliminating many deficiencies in applications which lead to longer review times.

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