A couple of weeks ago, Reason conveyed the sad news that bottomless booze brunches were technically illegal in New York. Weeping and gnashing of teeth ensued and many promising weekend plans were tragically cut short.
But fear not! The folks at New York State Liquor Authority freaked out about all the bad publicity—Reason was hardly alone in its dismay—lumbered into semi-consciousness and issued a statement clarifying the law. Looks like your local brunch spot's infinity pool filled with OJ and cheap champagne is probably legal after all:
Serving unlimited drinks to a patron is prohibited under the Alcoholic Beverage Control law, and instances of over serving by our licensees will be investigated and prosecuted. However, there is a limited exception in the statute when the service of alcohol is incidental to the event, such as in the case of certain brunch specials.
Even under these limited exceptions, licensees still have a legal obligation not to over serve patrons. The [New York State Liquor Authority] will continue to take a balanced regulatory approach by allowing licensees to conduct specials where alcohol is an accompaniment, while simultaneously cracking down on specials that promote excessive drinking.
By all means, toast this good news with a Bloody Mary this weekend.
But the fact that no one could figure out the rules until word came down from on high isn't exactly encouraging. Before blogging the initial story, I went and looked at the legal language that the press release from the NYC Hospitality Alliance (Section 117a, in case you'd like to go have a look).
The verbiage is as clear as a mudslide, of course. The fact that journalists and restaurateurs need regulators to come in an interpret the law like be-suited Oracles at Delphi means it's bad law, badly written. It also means that restaurants should fear selective enforcement, for NIMBY or political reasons.
It's enough to make you need a drink. Or 10.
H/T John Brewer, who likes good news.