Old Law Of Mandatory 7 pm Close Time For Wine & Liquor Shops Challenged Tonight By Lawmakers

Photo Credit: Katie Hellmuth Martin

Photo Credit: Katie Hellmuth Martin

Wine and liquor stores in Dutchess County are required by law to close at 7 pm, as we discussed with Artisan Wine Shop when we discovered Artisan’s petition asking for extended hours. Wine shops in surrounding counties are able to stay open longer, but thanks in part to some liquor stores fighting years ago to keep a short leash on the closing time, the 7 pm law has remained in effect for Dutchess County. This law is being challenged on Thursday, April 4, by a new resolution authored by Dutchess County Legislator Frits Zernike and co-authored by Dutchess County Legislator Nick Page. The resolution proposes that stores be able to stay open until 9 pm. Frits will present the resolution tonight at the April 4 Legislative Committee Meeting, which is open to the public to attend and voice opinion.

“Dutchess County, for all its advances in recent years, remains a backward place,” said Frits to A Little Beacon Blog via email. “Our opening hours are the most restrictive in the state, and we lose business to neighboring counties with less antediluvian laws because of them.” In the past, county representatives from Beacon, including Jerry Landisi, have challenged this law. “Similar resolutions have been introduced in the past, and have never made it out of committee,” said Frits.

The resolution that Frits is proposing today requests that wine and liquor stores “be permitted from 9 am to 9 pm on weekdays, as well as on New Year's, Memorial, Independence, Labor, and Thanksgiving days, and on the day before Thanksgiving, December 18-24, and New Year's Eve,” as stated in the resolution he authored.

In April 2015, the City of Beacon created its own resolution to show support for extended open hours, and it was signed by nearly all of Beacon’s City Council at that time: Charles P. Kelly, Pamela Wetherbee, Ali T. Muhammad, Lee Kyriacou, George Mansfield, and Mayor Randy Casale (Peggy Ross was absent for the vote). But the law was never able to be changed.

Why The Opposition To Later Than 7 pm?

The reason seems to reside with stores located (more) upstate. Said Frits: “[The lack of change] seems to be because liquor store owners up county, in Poughkeepsie and beyond, are fearful of what expanded hours would mean. As they see it, they'd have to stay open later, never seeing their families, and face the certain prospect of being robbed after dark. There are various holes in those arguments, but in the past they've prevailed.”

This line of thinking was displayed in a letter submitted when this law was being challenged several years ago, from a wine and liquor store owner in Lagrangeville, NY. From the supporting documents, the letter reads: “Has anyone taken into consideration the already long hours that my family works and how this proposal will just increase our work hours and shorten our family time? Has anyone thought to think of the increased overhead this will create for our already struggling businesses? And finally has anyone thought of the increase in crime and burglaries that may occur if stores are allowed to stay open past 7 pm?”

The store owner went on to say in the 2015 letter: “You will be taking business away from us that would just come back to us the next day. The law to allow stores to open on Sundays has done nothing but take away from family time for our business. It has simply spread our sales out that we would have made on Saturday and Monday.”

In his support of longer hours, Frits point out that stores are not mandated to stay open longer. “Expanded hours won't force anybody to do anything; they'll just offer greater opportunity. Stores that wish will be able to stay open until 9 pm. Those wanting to close earlier can.”

Frits has written this logic into his proposed resolution, which reads: “WHEREAS concerns about crime, lost or increased business and revenue, as well as quality of life issues arising from decisions regarding hours of operation are best resolved by individual business owners, rather than subject to legislative regulation or edict.”

Artisan Has Acquired 200+ Signatures From Customers In Support Of Longer Hours

Artisan’s petition is in support of this resolution. Artisan Wine Shop has amassed more than 200 signatures from customers who do want longer shopping hours, who may not necessarily simply return the next day. Beacon is a commuter city, where many people are just beginning to arrive home at 7 pm. Shops who close at 6 or 7 often leave commuters shopping on the weekends if at all.

Beaconites often head off on day trips out of Beacon and may or may not be able to hit up wine stores in Beacon to stock up on bottles for the week if they can’t shop after 7 pm during the week. Wine shops outside of Beacon may benefit, however, as people are doing errands on Route 9 and are in other towns on day trips.

Editor’s Note: there are other wine shops in Beacon, and should we get input from them, we will update this article. Usually this requires us visiting them in person.

Where To Go to Voice Opinion

This resolution proposing a longer open time will be presented on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at a Committee Meeting at 5:30 pm in the County Legislature chambers. That location is at 22 Market St., 6th Floor, in Poughkeepsie. Members of the public are invited to speak on agenda items at the meeting. There is a three-minute time limit for each individual's comments.

Residents who want their voices heard about this issue are encouraged to email the general legislature email: CountyLegislature@DutchessNY.gov

Will Open Hours For Wine and Liquor Stores Change This Time?

Will the law change this time? Allowing wine and liquor stores to stay open past 7 pm? When the rest of retail locations like bars, breweries, beer stores and gas stations that sell beer are open long into the night? Stay tuned!