Bottomless Booze Brunch Is Illegal in New York. Boo.


Joe Shlabotnik / photo on flickr

A scene from our dystopian future:

It's an ordinary Sunday morning, when suddenly flak-jacketed State Liquor Board officials bust down the door of a convivial brunch spot, pointing guns at the waiters and shouting: "Put down the pitcher of Bloody Marys and back away slowly, keeping your hands where I can see them!" Patrons, hovering in that terrible middle ground between hungover and tipsy, clutch their heads and hide under wobbly tables laden with undercooked hashbrowns, weeping. The restaurant owner is hauled away in cuffs. 

Apparently all-you-can-drink specials at brunch spots in New York are actually illegal. Luckily for the city's day drinkers, the law has actually been on the books for a long time and is generally not enforced, so the sangria SWAT scenario remains little more a distant nightmare for now.

But in an effort to be helpful, the NYC Hospitality Alliance sent out an email to its member restaurants on Monday reminding them that state law does in fact prohibit the "selling, serving, delivering or offering to patrons an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price."

The New York Post is on the case, obviously, grabbing this quote from Robert Bookman, counsel to the NYC Hospitality Alliance.

"I don't think it's a high enforcement priority," he said. "The community boards don't seem to be complaining about it and the customers definitely aren't complaining about it."

Of course, happy customers, happy vendors, and no negative externalities aren't good enough reasons for regulators to leave well enough alone forever. 

But it's not all doom and gloom on the brunch front in America, Virginia just deregulated the advertising of drink specials. So not only are unlimited mimosas totally legal to serve in the Old Dominion, it's even legal for restaurants to tell you about those specials on Twitter.

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  1. “I don’t think it’s a high enforcement priority,” he said. “The community boards don’t seem to be complaining about it and the customers definitely aren’t complaining about it.”

    So see? You’re probably safe. Even though the law is on the books and probably carries high penalties for business owners, it’s not a high enforcement priority. So as long as you’re paid up with the right people, you probably have very little to worry about if you want to host one of these events.

    Don’t you feel better now?

    1. A few people have advocated horrible laws around here with the excuse that it would be OK because they would be laxly enforced.

      Have these people never seen the state in action?

    2. And it’s not as though our betters ever enforced laws selectively to punish whomever they dislike.

    3. New York has so many laws on the books that in a recent round of “We must do something!” legislating, the Assembly and the Senate each introduced their own legislation – both of which replicated a law already on the books. I would like to remind you that most NY legislators are (still practicing) lawyers.

  2. Solution: Offer a maximum of 500 (or 5000 or whatever) drinks instead, controlled by a honor system. Seriously, how can you spend time and effort writing and passing such a law and not realize the extremely obvious way to circumvent the law?

    1. I think most states have laws against selling booze at a loss.

      So that wouldnt work either.

    2. This is the way Ohio’s “Vintage Ohio” wine tasting festival gets around the rule, though I think in Ohio the rule is that a business can’t give out wine tasting for free. Unlimited tasting for a fixed price dropped the price per taste too low. So instead, you got a ticket with a 12×12 grid, with a box to be checked off for each tasting, so you could get at most 144 tastes.

      In classic unintended consequence fashion, I’m betting a number of people saw that as a challenge and then drove home.

      1. Saw pretty much the same thing at a beer tasting. I got enough tickets for a couple gallons of beer.

  3. Luckily for the city’s day drinkers

    I could go for some day drinking.

  4. …the law has actually been on the books for a long time and is generally not enforced…

    Those armed bureaucrats would never take that out of their back pocket and use it. Never.

  5. This seems like it would have been really an easy place to plug tonight’s Reason “Happy Hour” in Cambridge, where it’s illegal to have an actual happy hour with discounted drinks.

  6. Bottomless mimosa brunches banned. Gays and soccer moms hardest hit.

    1. I like brunch due to the fact that when given my druthers, I first crawl out of the fetid swamp that is my nuptial bed (we haven’t bought a new one yet) at 10:30 am the earliest. As the official spokesperson for the Bearhawk community, can you tell me what is particularly gay about brunch?

      1. I think it’s the mimosa part that’s gay.

        1. Oh, almost forgot: HURR DURR COSMOTARIANZ!!1

        2. This. We took a nice post church meal and kaizen’d the crap out of it to include loads of free booze that looks like orange juice.

          You’re absolutely welcome.

          1. Thanks! Still doesn’t let your ilk off for the Gipsy Kings though.

      2. No kids. I expect it will be 10-15 years, depending on our child spacing before my wife and I can regularly have a drink or four between 11am and 2:30 on any given weekend. So it isn’t that gays prefer brunch, they’re just the ones who have time for it.

        1. It’s very easy to parent after 4 drinks. Almost effortless. As soon as the breastfeeding is over, you’re good to go. (You’re good to go right now, actually, but it would be a dick move to do that to your wife)

        2. That’s a good point Brett.

        3. Sorry excuse. I know gay couples with kids who Sunday brunch (the couples not the kids). They may not go as hard as the singles, but they see it as a chance to connect with adult friends they don’t have as much time for with the kids. Babysitters or grandparents can take the kids for a few hours while they work on shoring up their sanity for the coming week.

          1. You California kids are hard core.

  7. KY ABC (or at least some of them) have been enforcing the “now free drinks” law and cracking down on free samples.

    “Hey, whats that beer taste like”
    “Here is a 1 oz pour”

    That kind of thing. The thing is, they havent cracked down hard, but a number of places I know have used it as an excuse to avoid giving them to non-regulars. I still get them.

    People were abusing it, its why sampler flights exist, if you want to taste 4 different beers. I still got a free sample the other night, but that wasnt even requested, bartender just put it in front of me to try.

    1. “no free drinks”

      Dammit John.

      1. I’m guessing the blame for that one falls on the free samples, and not John.

  8. At a beer festival in Saratoga last weekend I was presented with a list of tickets to exchange for a sample of beer from the vendors. Luckily no one was bothering to collect the tickets, so you could drink as much as you like.

    1. As mentioned above, that is pretty normal.

      Great Taste of the Midwest is unlimited samples. But Wisconsin is Wisconsin.

      1. Fond memories. I went to the first one: six breweries.

      2. On Wisconsin!

  9. Good thing “up to 100” is not “unlimited”, but has exactly the same effect!

  10. New York City…land of the free, home of the brave. Well…I guess one out of two ain’t bad.

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