1. What are your thoughts on the passing of the Brunch bill?
We’re thrilled the “Brunch Bill” passed. Soon restaurants in New York can lawfully serve alcohol at 10:00am on Sundays instead of noon. The NYC Hospitality Alliance had been advocating to reform this post-prohibition era blue law for some time. This reform became more relevant a couple of years ago while working alongside the city to successfully change another outdated law prohibiting restaurants from operating their sidewalk cafes before noon on Sundays. We had extra support for the reform this year when our counsel Rob Bookman was appointed by Governor Cuomo to the State Liquor Authority’s ABC Law Working Group, which recommended the “Brunch Bill” to the legislature. Finally brunch lovers will be able to enjoy their eggs benedict with a bloody mary while sitting at a beautiful sidewalk café beginning at 10:00am on Sundays. This reform also has the added benefit of generating additional revenue for restaurants during a time when most other operating costs are skyrocketing. These two reforms are a great example of how the hospitality industry can works together for sensible regulatory reform and by being coordinated, persistent and patient, we can achieve our goals.
2. What advice do you have for your members relative to protecting against or creating a security strategy after Orlando?
The recent attack in Orlando is horrible and our hearts go out to everyone. We’re fortunate to have a strong working relationship with the NYPD who do an incredible job keeping us safe. We stay in regular communication and work together to ensure that New York City is a safe and fun place to go out to eat and drink. We recommend that our members closely review our “Best Practice’s for Nightlife Establishments Guide, (2nd Edition)” with updated information from the NYPD on counterterrorism planning in nightlife businesses. The guide can be found on our website (www.theNYCalliance.org) or by contacting us. We’ve co-hosted with the NYPD active shooter trainings for our members and their security teams. And we continue to encourage our members to be vigilant. Businesses can also contact the NYPD who will review their security protocol and can work with their security team to ensure proper measures are in place. All this is not intended to alarm or frighten, but rather to help New York City’s vibrant nightlife community deliver hospitality in a safe environment for their workers and guests.
3. What unfinished business is on the NYC Hospitality Alliance’s agenda for the next legislative session in the state capitol?
We’ll push the bill to reform the 200 Foot Law, which is another blue law prohibiting restaurants from obtaining a full liquor license within 200 feet of a school or place of worship. We’ve heard from our members in communities like Harlem – where there are a lot of churches – that they’ve passed on signing a lease to open a high quality restaurant that would hire locals, source NY state products and be an asset to the neighborhood, all because the property falls within 200 feet of a church. Even if the church supports a restaurateur’s liquor license application the law doesn’t allow the State Liquor Authority to make an exception. This post prohibition law clearly should be amended to allow a full service restaurant with a business model requiring a full liquor license to obtain one, instead of only a limited beer and wine license which is allowed under the law. We’ll also continue our lobbying efforts to reform the so called 80/20 Rule that creates significant legal and financial liability for restaurants and hurts workers who want to work more hours and learn new skills. It’s a little complicated but basically, the law prohibits an employer from taking the tip credit if an employee works more than 20% or two hours of their shift-whatever is less- in a non-tipped job capacity. Effectively this means they can’t work five hours of a shift as a bartender earning tips and then three hours doing non-tipped work like inventory, tastings and purchasing. If they do, they violate the 80/20 Rule and enormous financial legal and financial liability results, including loss of the tip credit, double damages and attorney fees. This reform is unlikely to happen overnight but we urge it to happen fast since minor technical violations, in which there is no real damage, are resulting in major lawsuits against employers.