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Possible changes coming to WNY alcohol craft industry

Posted at 11:34 PM, Jul 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-17 23:38:08-04

The enthusiasm is palpable among local producers of alcohol.

"It's exciting to see all of the new breweries and distilleries and wineries all over Western New York," owner of Ten Thousand Vines winery, Mike Ditonto, in Hamburg.

But what's not exciting to the craft industry---a new bill, restricting anyone under 21-years-old to serve samples or handle open containers of alcohol.

"All of a sudden to make this change and restrict our abilities to hire people is disconcerting."

Ditonto said this could hurt his intern pool and the amount of help he gets when bottling.

West Seneca's Rusty Nickel Brewing agree the age restriction shouldn't be included.  The remainder of the bill focuses on clarifying alcoholic beverage tastings with tax exemptions.

For beer under the current law, a sample size is 3 oz.  The new bill would increase that to 5 oz. and the first six samples would be N.Y. sales tax exempt. The same idea applies to wine, cider and liquor tastings.

"Anytime that you can afford to save taxes is a great opportunity to spend," Jason Havens of Rusty Nickel Brewing said.

But how will this all be regulated?

"It's virtually impossible to make sure that you're complying short of just not offering samples at all," Ditonto said.

Rusty Nickel Brewing Vice President, Dave Johnson adding, "There's no way of them to be able to monitor this with the way that it's written."

Both businesses agree, there needs to be some changes before the bill hits Governor Andrew Cuomo's desk to be signed.

"For us, we see this as a benefit, a net benefit, for everybody.  And it encourages the industry to continue to grow," Havens said.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Senator Patrick M. Gallivan released this statement on the matter: 

 “This piece of legislation only applies to tax exemptions on tastings from New York producers at their premises. This would in no way impact who can serve alcohol for on premise retailers such as bars and restaurants.
We have been working on providing tax relief to promote NY products over the last couple of years. During this time, numerous conversations with industry representatives and State agency officials occurred.  We have been assured that the bill will not be sent to the Governor for consideration until the end of the year, when we will request a chapter amendment to address the 21 year old age limit and any other unintended consequences.”

 

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