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Cuomo’s 19th proposal for 2020: Alcohol in movie theaters across NYS

Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to reform antiquated prohibition era laws, which have a big impact on the state’s craft beverage manufacturing industry.

His 19th proposal for the 2020 State of the State agenda will make it easier for movie theaters to sell alcoholic beverages, giving them more revenue and craft producers additional retail outlets; and modernize New York’s Alcoholic Beverage Control law to help higher education institutions train the next generation of the craft beverage workforce.

“New York’s craft beverage industry is flourishing thanks to eight years of targeted investments and forward-thinking policies that are attracting new businesses and supporting our booming tourism industry,” Governor Cuomo said. “This measure will remove outdated Prohibition-era rules that hamper private sector investment, ensure we’re training the next generation of workers in a critical industry and give more New Yorkers the opportunity to responsibly enjoy a drink at the movies.”

The Governor proposes amending New York’s Tied House Law, an arcane provision of the Alcoholic Beverage Control – or ABC – Law that makes relocating to or opening or investing in a business in New York needlessly difficult, Cuomo contends.

Prohibition-era Tied House Laws are intended to prevent manufacturers or wholesalers from having undue influence over a retail business that sells beverages directly to consumers. New York’s law, on the books since 1933, prohibits all such retailer and manufacturer/wholesaler relationships, and is even stricter than long-standing federal law, which provides discretion by analyzing the details of the relationship when there is a partial ownership stake, and allows such a relationship when ownership is total.

As a way to boost the state craft beverage industry, the Governor is proposing an amendment to the ABC law to allow the sale of beer, wine, cider, mead, and spirits at movie theaters. Current state law only allows movie theaters with full kitchens and tables inside the screening rooms to offer the sale of alcohol to their adult customers. With increased competition and diversification of video content creation and consumption methods, movie theaters faced with competition have been investing in upgrades and advancements to the movie-going experience. While these investments are attracting new audiences, they have increased operating costs with many theaters struggling to pay for these upgrades without additional sources of revenue.

Under the Governor’s proposal, adults holding tickets to movies rated PG-13 or higher could purchase alcoholic beverages, provided only one drink could be sold to a customer at a time. This proposal will provide theater operators with additional revenues, assist in the economic development of downtowns, and provide New York craft producers with additional retail outlets.

Cuomo is also proposing the creation of a post-secondary institution license under the ABC Law. Currently, licensing an educational institution for alcoholic beverage manufacturing is overly complicated, with institutions interested in teaching the production of the various types of alcoholic beverages requiring multiple applications and separate licenses. Additionally, higher education institutions cannot sell the craft beverages their students produce in a restaurant setting without being granted a special exception by the legislature.

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