Changes to New York’s Alcohol Laws on the Horizon for 2024

Changes to New York’s Alcohol Laws on the Horizon for 2024

Governor Hochul has supported ABC Reform by including several proposals in her Executive Budget, including a proposal to make permanent the temporary law permitting bars and restaurants to sell cocktails-to-go. Some advocacy groups propose some additional changes to the existing law to eliminate some of the impractical requirements such as pouring drinks from the original container into another container and allowing the sale of cocktails-in-a-can and bottles of wine as part of the “to-go” experience.

The Governor and several state legislators are slowly introducing changes to the state’s alcohol laws to bring the laws up to date with modern business practices and in alignment with alcohol laws in other states that reflect current industry business practices and technologies.  They are choosing to propose some of the less controversial reforms in order to avoid strenuous political opposition that could slow progress. The legislative reforms also will benefit an industry that is now facing competition from the new adult use cannabis market.

Some of the new proposals include allowing one-day (“special event”) event permits for alcohol service to include liquor, hard cider and mead (not only beer and wine, as is currently the case) and allow permits for caterers serving alcohol to be issued for outdoor events (currently limited to indoor events). Another welcome change would be elimination of the requirement that retail license applicants wait 30 days to formally apply after notifying their municipality of the intention to seek an on-premise retail liquor license (“30-day municipal notice”).

The Clean Slate Act will also make it easier for those with a criminal history to apply for and obtain liquor licenses by sealing records for those who successfully complete their sentences and stay out of trouble after being released. Under the new state law, most criminal records will be sealed three years after a person serves time or parole for a misdemeanor, and eight years after a person is released for felony convictions with the exception that murder, sex crimes, domestic terrorism and most Class A felonies will not be eligible for sealing. For those with sealed records, they will not need to report such criminal violations in the licensing process, eliminating some of the barriers and delays to obtaining licenses by justice involved individuals.

The 2023 report on proposed changes to New York’s alcohol laws included other reforms still being supported by industry advocacy groups and lobbyists but not included in the Governor’s budget such as allowing bar and restaurant owners to purchase limited amounts of product from retail liquor stores in order to restock their inventory in between deliveries and to save thousands of dollars annually in surcharges for placing small orders. Other proposals are aimed at liquor and wine stores by allowing liquor store owners to own and operate more than a single location in the state and to permit them to carry nonalcoholic wine and spirits and complementary items like cocktail cherries, cheese and mixers. There are other proposals aimed at clarifying and updating requirements and procedures for new liquor store applications and the state’s 200 and 500 foot rules. These changes to New York’s outdated liquor laws are aimed at reducing costs, delays and barriers to entry for new small business owners.

The state’s continued support for this industry and helping business owners compete in the modern marketplace and post-pandemic economy is refreshing. There is no better time to get into this industry and our licensing team can help you navigate the process to acquire licenses and operate in compliance with the ever-changing regulations.


The forgoing is not intended to be and should not be construed as legal advice.  Only after an attorney client relationship is established in writing may legal advice be given.


Tracy Jong is a Senior attorney at Evans Fox LLP with 30 years of experience focusing her practice in business law, intellectual property and licensing for alcohol and cannabis. Tracy Jong is a member of the New York Bar and is a registered attorney at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. She can be reached at [email protected].