The effort took two years, but finally a law has been enacted to get the state Liquor Authority off the backs of local farm wineries.
The new law is based on recommendations in a December 2008 report from the Wine Grape Task Force. It was sponsored by Sen. Catharine Young as well as Assemblyman Robin Schimminger.
These are the changes in the law signed recently by Gov. Andrew Cuomo:
• Branch Store Capability: The new law allows farm wineries to operate up to five branch stores as extensions of the farm winery, not as separate entities. The Liquor Authority had been forcing the farm wineries to get separate licenses for each store.
• Custom Crush Capability: The law enables farm wineries to provide or use custom crush services for purchasers of New York grapes, thus encouraging smaller vineyards in rural areas to enter in the industry.
• Direct Shipper’s Report Efficiencies: New York wineries have been able to ship directly to consumers in other states since 2005, but have needed to produce a costly and time-consuming report that the Liquor Authority did not really use any way. This law now requires them simply to maintain reports on-site and give them to the Liquor Authority when asked.
• License Consolidation: The new law creates a license that covers regular farm wineries as well as those that make less than 1,500 gallons of wine. This replaces a regulation that forced farm wineries that were classified as micro-wineries to apply for a separate license.
• Charitable Events Filing Efficiencies: New York wineries that want to take part in charitable events are no longer restricted to five a year nor do they need to file complicated paperwork for each one. Under the new law, once wineries get an annual permit, they only need to notify the Liquor Authority of each charitable event.
Saying the old cumbersome regulations impeded productivity, Sen. Young noted that, “Not only will this new law permit both New York farm wineries and the State Liquor Authority to operate more efficiently, it also will allow these private businesses and state government to cut costs. This initiative is exactly what our state needs to generate more economic vitality, opportunity and prosperity, and I was proud to sponsor this legislation.”
Farm wineries produce wine from grapes grown on land that is family owned and managed. Some are so small they are classified as micro-wineries - hence the Liquor Authority’s old requirement that they have two licenses.
Although New York is the third largest wine producing state behind California and Washington, it is not a mammoth industry. Sales of New York wines account for $420 million a year a tiny fraction of the $1 trillion gross state product. But the wine and grape industry has an estimated $3.76 billion economic impact from the production of grapes grown in about 1,400 vineyards statewide. That is substantial to the people and businesses involved in the state’s major wine-producing areas the Finger Lakes, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, the Niagara Escarpment and our own Lake Erie region.
We salute everyone involved in getting rid of the unnecessary and costly regulations.
But the dragon is not yet slain. There remains the penchant within the state bureaucracy to over-regulate and, we sometimes suspect, place complicated and burdensome requirements on the private sector as a way to protect government jobs in the agencies that oversee the businesses being regulated.
The heart of the matter is this: If such a monumental effort was needed to get rid of regulations that are stifling one tiny segment of the mighty Empire State’s private economy, what hope is there that logic, common sense and fairness will ever pervade our state government so that we are once again a friendly place to do business?