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NYSNYS NEWS: Brunch bill endorsed by bars and restaurants, Cuomo. Measure would permits alcohol sales now prohibited on Sunday mornings as last vestige of Prohibition.
NYSNYS NEWS: Brunch bill endorsed by bars and restaurants, Cuomo. Measure would permits alcohol sales now prohibited on Sunday mornings as last vestige of Prohibition.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 13) -- Business owners and lobbyists literally hoisted a glass to toast the "brunch bill" Monday, portraying the measure to permit bars and restaurants to sell booze on Sunday mornings as a way to keep customers happy.

"Sunday is the second busiest day for consumer activities," said Mark Graydon, the co-owner of Ye Olde English Pub, a cozy bar-restaurant in a circa 1730s building in downtown Albany. "Many taxpayers, their only day off in the week is Sunday. If they want to enjoy a brunch with their friends and family and have Bloody Mary, a Mimosa or a beer, they should be allowed the choice."

"A day of rest is now governed by the individual and not the government, so it is an archaic law," he added. "The Prohibition ended 80 years ago, guys."

Sunday morning sales of alcohol at taverns, bars and restaurants in New York has been illegal since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. A decade ago, the Legislature permitted retail stores to sell alcohol before noon and liquor stores to open for the day, but did not disturb the ban on other drink sales.

The brunch bill to roll back the sales time from noon to 8 a.m. is one of a number of small-bore bills competing for the attention of legislators as they enter the final week of the 2016 session. The bill would require businesses to obtain a special Sunday morning sales permit in addition to the regular liquor license.

A second bill pending would allow drinks to be served starting at 10 a.m., with businesses able to get up to 12 special permits annually to open on certain days when Sunday morning would be busy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is supporting early sales as part of several proposals to modernize the alcoholic beverage control law. Cuomo has encouraged the growth of home-grown breweries and distilleries as job creators that generate all sorts of new business opportunities.

The state Business Council, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the NYS Hospitality and Tourism Association all support the change, said Scott Wexler, the executive director of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association.

"There are diverse voices supporting this change, one that gives these businesses the opportunity to do what they do best -- meet and exceed the expectations of their customers," he said at a press conference held at at the English Pub, sipping a beer to make his point.

"Sunday really is no different than the rest of the days of the week for the vast majority of the population," Wexler said.

The measure has run into trouble in the state Assembly, where there are concerns among some members about bars and restaurants serving alcohol near churches on Sunday mornings.

Monday, Cuomo identified updating the alcohol laws as one of his six priorities for the final week of the session. The others are addressing the heroin epidemic, breast cancer screening, campaign finance reform, ethics and rail-crossing safety.

The legislature is scheduled to wrap up the session on Thursday, capping a year of scandal that saw both former leaders of the Senate and Assembly sentenced to long terms in federal prison.

Despite the corruption scandal, legislators have rejected Cuomo's proposals for ethics reform. Cuomo has also kept a low profile as a federal investigation is under way into whether members of his inner circle were involved in rigging state contracts to benefits some of his biggest campaign contributors.