New “Brunch Bill” Brings Opportunity and Uncertainty to Restaurants and Bars

By Maggie Cai and Yawen Tang

Restaurants and bars can now sell alcohol before noon on Sundays following the change in early September of New York’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, but it has not had an immediate sales boost for brunch-serving restaurants or bars, wholesalers and business owners reported.

“It’s only speculation now that it will help the restaurant and bar business, but there is no definitive way to tell,” Kyle Carberry, a portfolio manager for Southern Glazer Wine and Spirits, one of the largest wholesalers on Long Island, said. “It was only passed a few weeks ago so it’s too early to tell, but I think that sales will ultimately go up.”

“There is not going to be a measurable increase in alcohol consumption as a result,” Stuart Haimes, co-owner Shoreline Beverage, a alcohol wholesaler, said.

The new law, dubbed the “Brunch Bill,” allows restaurants and bars to begin selling alcohol to customers starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays. It has been in effect for about three weeks, but has become a factor for business owners who are considering changing their Sunday hours.

“We open at noon primarily because we can’t serve alcohol before noon,” Aron Watman, owner of Hill & Dale in NYC, said. “We only open for brunch on the weekends and the focus is that it’s a boozy brunch- a bottomless brunch thing. If they’re doing it now at 10 a.m. we would try opening early for sure.”

In the latest annual report by the New York State Liquor Authority, there were 2,272 on-premises licenses in the Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk and Westchester.

“The feeling is that it should increase business almost immediately as people are looking to come out earlier for brunch, but I don’t know that it will necessarily increase business,” Tom Gibson, CEO of the Interchange Business Organization, said. “In the end, the extra hours will just bring the same customers out earlier and they will get on with the rest of their day- only time will tell for each business.”

The Brunch Bill is beneficial to the restaurant industry and eateries will now be able to meet their customers’ needs better, Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association said.

“It allows our bar to stay compliant when the customer asks for a mimosa or Bloody Mary,” Chris P., owner of Point Break Sports Bar & Grill in West Hempstead, said.

The bill was signed in time for the start of the Premiere League, hoping to help sports bars bring in customers. “We get people coming in now to see soccer games because they watch European games at different time zones,” Sariah Perez, a bartender from Ruby Tuesday, said.

However, business managers have not decided if they will change their hours to take advantage of this opportunity.“People drink coffee instead of alcohol in the morning so it does not affect our business at all,” Steven Midgley , a manager from Brewology in Port Jefferson, said.

Some owners like Catherine Casabianca, owner of Blue Collar Bar in Southampton, said even with the new regulation, she is happy with the existing hours. “I’m sure it helps a lot of places out here, but for now we are happy at noon,” she said.

In addition to this provision, there is another regulation meant to help smaller businesses. Previously, small wholesalers were required to pay the same amount for their license as larger counterparts, with costs ranging from $1,460 for a one-year beer license to $27,280 for a three- year liquor wholesale license. Now they will only have to pay $125 per year for an importers license.

This will ease the financial burden for these small businesses who often have to make a choice between continuing to hold a New York wholesale license or to relocate their businesses.