FOLLOW UP: Wine and Liquor Store 7pm Law Moves To New York State Liquor Authority For Public Comment

Pictured here are two wine stores in Beacon who are in support of extending the open hours.  Photo Credit: Katie Hellmuth Martin

Pictured here are two wine stores in Beacon who are in support of extending the open hours.
Photo Credit: Katie Hellmuth Martin

A law restricting wine and liquor stores to close by 7pm, and be open for 1 hour in the morning on select major holidays, has been moving towards being repealed, after years of resistance from local businesses upcounty who wanted to maintain the short hours, citing that stores who opted to stay open until 9pm would cannibalize their business.

In a milestone never before reached by prior Dutchess County Legislators who attempted the repeal, it appears that the time is ripe for overriding the opposition. Amending the law is now before the New York State Liquor Authority, who needs to hear from the public on if they want this law changed. The New York State Liquor Authority is holding a Public Comment hearing on Tuesday, August 27th, at 4:30pm at One Overocker Road in Poughkeepsie., and wants to hear from you before they make their decision.

In Prior Years, Attempts To Extend Open Hours Failed

Former Dutchess County Legislator Jerry Landisi attempted to change this law years ago, with Mayor Casale’s support. It didn’t budge. This year, current Dutchess County Legislator Frits Zernike authored a resolution to change the law, citing in a press release: "This allows individual businesses to tailor their hours to the buying habits of people in their localities, instead of the one-size-fits-some regulation we now have. Because you can stay open til 9pm. doesn't mean you have to. But the 7pm closing time means everybody has to stop doing business at the same time."

2019 Saw The Most Success - Plus A Veto - To Extend The Hours

The 2019 attempt also had Beacon’s Mayor and City Council’s support, where the Mayor traveled to the legislature meeting where the vote was passed 18-6 in April 2019 in favor of extending the open hours. However, the Dutchess County Executive, Marcus Molinaro vetoed their vote, declaring that not enough public awareness was made about the vote. Yet, in his memo announcing his veto, he supported the move to extend the open hours:

 

“I have no objection to this county requesting the New York State Liquor Authority consider extending the hours of operation for Dutchess wine and liquor stores. I support competition and a more open market place, and I want Duchess County businesses to have the greatest opportunity to compete and succeed.

Restrictive State policies and outdated laws governing this industry have created an uneven playing field that should be addressed. Further, in many ways, the State Liquor Authority remains an institution rooted in the past, unable to keep up with the rapidly changing market, local needs, and the concerns of the State’s and Dutchess County’s residents. A better system would devolve authority and allow local municipalities with their zoning regulations to regulate the retail of wine and liquor for off-premises consumption. It is befuddling, at best, as to why New York has maintained this prohibition-era regime, and I do not know how this County became the last in the state to enable extended hours of operation.”

 

The legislators voted again to override his vote, 19-5 in May 2019, moving the challenge to the State Liquor Authority.

What Will Happen Next?

Tune in after Tuesday, August 27th when the New York State Liquor Authority hears from the public. You could comment here or on our Instagram about this, but if you really want to make a difference, travel up to the meeting! Or according to the Poughkeepsie Journal, you can write in:

EMAIL
Secretarys.Office@sla.ny.gov
Include in the subject line: "Dutchess County Hearing."

LETTER BY SNAIL MAIL
Addressed to the secretary's office at:
80 South Swan St. Suite 900
Albany, N.Y. 12210

Dutchess County Legislature Votes 19-5 to Override Molinaro's Veto of Open Hours Extension for Wine and Liquor Stores

dutchess-county-legislature-override-veto.png

A challenge to a law mandating that wine and liquor stores in Dutchess County must close by 7 pm on weekdays - with more limitations on select major holidays - has advanced twice through the Dutchess County Legislature by a wide majority. The proposed law would allow businesses to extend their hours to 9 pm on weekdays and on select major holidays. The first vote of approval of extending open hours occurred on April 8, 2019, and was 18-6. That vote was vetoed by County Executive Marcus Molinaro. Tonight, on Monday, May 13, 2019, the Dutchess County Legislators met again to vote to override Molinaro’s veto, and did so with a vote of 19-5.

This vote allows the proposed open hours extension to go before the State Liquor Authority, who will hold a Public Comment period, and then make a final decision.

This law has been challenged before but never passed. Here’s a look at the twists and turns this particular issue has taken so far over the years:

What Is The Backstory?

Current Allowed Open Hours For Wine and Liquor Stores

9 am to 7 pm
Weekdays

9 am to 10 am
New Year's, Memorial, Independence, Labor, and Thanksgiving Day (set your alarm!)

9 am to 10 pm
The Day Before Thanksgiving, December 18th – 24th, and New Year's Eve

Proposed Extended Open Hours

9 am to 9 pm
Weekdays

9 am to 9 pm
New Year's, Memorial, Independence, Labor, and Thanksgiving days, and on the day before Thanksgiving, December 18th - 24th and New Year's Eve

Wine and liquor stores in Dutchess County have had to operate within shorter open hours than equivalent shops in surrounding counties for years. The closing time is 7 pm, and on some holidays such as New Year's, Memorial, Independence, Labor, and Thanksgiving Day, they are allowed to be open for one hour, from 9 am to 10 am (set your alarm!).

Did Beacon Wine and Liquor Stores Ever Challenge The 7 pm Close Time, That They Now Call “Restrictive“?

The law was challenged by county legislators. In 2016, then-Dutchess County Legislator Jerry Landisi tried to get the open hours extended. The City of Beacon signed a Resolution (aka a law that says that they support something, so that it’s super official and has votes of council people). Mayor Casale backed it then, and continues to back it today.

During The 2016 Challenge, No Vote Happened. Some Stores Opposed The Extension.

“[The resolution proposing the extended hours] never made it out of committee,” says current Dutchess County Legislator Frits Zernike, the author of the latest attempt to extend the open hours to 9 pm. “That 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.“

In an email interview with A Little Beacon Blog, Mei Ying So, of Artisan Wine Shop in Beacon, recalled the last time the law was challenged: “We have never been contacted when legislation regarding extending operating hours was coming up before the committee in years past. The last time this came before the committee, it was defeated in committee and it was only through local media that we found out after the fact that it had even happened.”

Why Would A Store Oppose The Open Hours Extension?

Business owners in opposition feared that if the open hours were extended, that the shop would be required to stay open longer. However, this rule change would simply allow businesses to stay open later; it is not a mandate that the business must stay open until the latest permitted closing time. Some shop owners have voiced concerns that if a neighboring business is open, then they will lose business. Such is another example of fears of business competition potentially being written into law, which we are seeing possibly happen between the City of Beacon and prepared food vendors during the Beacon Farmers Market yearly lease negotiation.

In their own words, here are excerpts of some letters of opposition submitted during the course of 2014-2016:

Poughkeepsie Wine & Liquor Inc. wrote in, stating: “I want it to be known that I am against the extension of hours that we can be open in Dutchess County. We are a small business with a limited number of employees who work long hours already and who need some time with their families, especially on holidays and after work. Staying open later in the evening could also be a danger to our safety since we are small independent stores.”

Cotter’s Wine and Liquor Store, in Pleasant Valley, wrote in: “I am opposed to opening on New Year’s, Memorial, Independence, Labor and Thanksgiving days. People plan for holiday parties. Those days are our holidays too and we want to spend them with our families. I am also opposed to extended hours year-round. They do not equate to increased income, but rather to increased expenses. Before proposing any such legislation, a poll of all liquor stores should have been taken.”

Said Charel’s Liquors in Lagrangeville, N.Y. “I need the members to understand that we know this is a choice to open on holidays and extend hours, but you are forcing our hand. 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.”

Family time was the theme of other letters.

This Time Around, Petitions Were Put Forth By Store Owners In Favor Of Hours Extension, In Addition To Opposition

In March of 2019, stores in the Beacon area put out petitions for signatures. Says Mei of Artisan Wine: “We (four stores in all - Artisan Wine Shop, Pioneer Wine & Liquor, Beacon Wine Shoppe, and Boutique Wines, Spirits and Ciders in Fishkill) collected over 1,000 signatures from consumers, all taxpayers, most are residents. Hundreds of emails and Facebook messages in support were sent to the Legislature. And the legislators themselves talked to many of the stores in their districts. Legislator Frits Zernike did a lot of leg work to inform stores as well, months ago.”

Supporters showed up at the Dutchess County Legislature meeting about it on Thursday, April 4 (watch it here), which would be a time to officially ask for the vote on Monday, April 8, to ask the State Liquor Authority to extend the hours.

Who spoke in support?

According to Mei, who attended that meeting: “There were nine people speaking in support of the legislation: from Artisan Wine Shop, Mei Ying So, Tim Buzinski and Sam Lozoff; Kitty Sherpa, co-owner of Beacon Natural Market (she also read a letter in support from Wineology in Pawling); Jessica Gonzalez, Beacon resident and well-known, award-winning bartender; Hal Newell, owner of Harker House Wine & Spirits in Clinton Corners; Paige Fiori, co-owner of Boutique Wines, Spirits and Ciders in Fishkill, and her husband; and one of Paige's customers.”

Beacon’s Mayor Casale attended to voice his support for the hours extension as well.

Who spoke against?

Stores speaking against included Arlington Wine in Poughkeepsie, Southside in Poughkeepsie, some stores in Hyde Park, and a customer of one of the Hyde Park store owners. You can watch the whole April 8 session here, where the public comments start at minute 35.

Legislator Zernike wrote into the 2019 resolution a recommendation about how competition should be handled: “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.”

Voting Round 1 Results: 18-6; Which Is Vetoed By County Executive Marcus Molinaro

After hearing from the public, who traveled from around Dutchess County to attend, the Dutchess County Legislature voted 18-6 in favor of hours extension, which would move along the law change to the State Liquor Authority for a final vote.

The Legislature’s vote must go before the County Executive Marcus Molinaro to approve or veto. In a letter of support for the hours extension, the County Executive stated that “Restrictive State policies and outdated laws governing this industry have created an uneven playing field that should be addressed. Further, in may ways, the State Liquor Authority remains an institution rooted in the past, unable to keep up with the rapidly changing market, local needs, and the concerns of the State’s and Dutchess County’s residents. A better system would devolve authority and allow local municipalities with their zoning regulations to regulate the retail sale of wine and liquor for off-premises consumption. It is befuddling, at best, as to why New York has maintained this Prohibition-era regime, and I do not know how this County became the last in the state to enable extended hours of operation.”

With that letter of support, Molinaro vetoed the resolution, stating that it needed more time for public comment and awareness to mayors and supervisors.

Dutchess County Legislature Overrides Molinaro’s Veto 19-5

Back to this past Monday, May 13, 2019, weeks after that veto. The Dutchess County Legislature met again to acquire enough votes to override the veto, which they did. The resolution will now proceed to the State Liquor Authority, to open up for Public Comment once again, and then the final decision will be made.

Stay tuned…

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!

Wine Shops Must Close At 7pm In Dutchess County - Artisan Wine Shop Is Petitioning That - Wants Later Hours

Photo Credit: Katie Hellmuth Martin

Photo Credit: Katie Hellmuth Martin

UPDATE 4/4/2019: Artisan’s petition supports a resolution that Dutchess County Legislator Frits Zernike has authored, which requests that the law be changed to allow wine and liquor stores to remain open longer. Read more about that resolution - being presented on Thursday, April 4 - here.

If you’ve ever sauntered to Artisan Wine Shop on a summer evening, only to be met with a “Closed” sign at 7:30 pm, it’s not because they want to call it a night. Wine and liquor stores in Dutchess County are not allowed to stay open past 7 pm. Many people leaving their desk in New York City, Westchester County or Poughkeepsie (or anywhere else that involves extended commute times) often arrive home after 7 pm. Which means they are not able to shop for wine after 7 pm.

Currently, the hours of retail sale of wine and liquor in Dutchess County are restricted to 9 am to 7 pm on weekdays (defined as Monday to Saturday), and 9 am to 10 am on New Year’s, Memorial, Independence, Labor, and Thanksgiving days. You read that right - one hour on those holidays. “We usually don’t even open on Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, or the Fourth of July,” said a staff member from Artisan Wine Shop when A Little Beacon Blog called to confirm the one-hour holiday policy on those days.

People can, however, walk down to a wine bar, like Chill or Oak Vino, who can be open late into the night. Or, people could stop into a beer shop, like Beacon Craft Beer Shoppe next door to Key Food, to stock up on creatively brewed craft beer. People could decide to patronize any of the growing number of craft breweries in the area, like Two Way Brewing or Hudson Valley Brewing Company. While you’re at it, a person could even go to a whiskey distillery tasting room, like Dennings Point Distillery by Rite Aid, to sip a little and listen to live music late at night.

The Fight To Extend Open Hours For Wine and Liquor Stores Continues

Crossroads Wine and Spirit in Fishkill asked local government to extend Open hours in 2014, as it was hurting their business to close at 7pm. They have since closed this location.

Crossroads Wine and Spirit in Fishkill asked local government to extend Open hours in 2014, as it was hurting their business to close at 7pm. They have since closed this location.

Wine and liquor stores have tried to change this in the past. Crossroads Wine and Spirit in Fishkill wrote an email in 2014 to local government, asking that it reconsider the early closing time, especially considering other counties in New York had later closing times. In 2015, a resolution went through Beacon, asking Dutchess County to reconsider the early closing time (see resolution PDFs here). From Beacon’s 2015 Resolution to Dutchess County:

“The City Council of the City of Beacon hereby requests the Dutchess County Board of Legislators recognize the current County liquor store closing hours create an inconvenience to County residents, visitors to the County and it is also detrimental to the business owners and taxpayers, as it forces dollars that would otherwise be spent in Duchess County to be spent elsewhere and that therefore, the hours of operation for liquor stores on Monday through Saturday be permitted to be from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm.”

Today - People and Businesses Continue To Want Wine and Liquor Stores Open Longer

Inside of Artisan Wine Shop.  Photo Credit: Katie Hellmuth Martin

Inside of Artisan Wine Shop.
Photo Credit: Katie Hellmuth Martin

Now it’s March 2019, and there is a stack of signatures on a petition on the counter at Artisan Wine Shop, asking Dutchess County to let wine and liquor shops stay open until at least 9 pm.

From Artisan Wine Shop’s petition, supporters from all over Dutchess County - not just Beacon - are encouraged to write to their county legislators, both to the General legislature email address, and to one’s own county legislator directly.

From the petition: “We're asking Dutchess County residents to email the Dutchess County Legislature to make the biggest impact. And please forward this to your family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances in the county (as many outside of Beacon as possible too!).“

Emails To Send Open Hour Extension Requests To:

  • General legislature address: CountyLegislature@DutchessNY.gov

  • For Beacon: fzernike@dutchessny.gov or npage@dutchessny.gov

Artisan Wine Shop is located at 180 Main Street, Beacon, NY. And they’re only open until 7 pm, so plan accordingly.