A little-known New York State law that prohibits unlimited drinks made waves this week when outlets began reporting that bottomless brunches are illegal.
Understandably, people were upset. How can New York’s favourite weekend past time be against the law?
Thankfully, it’s not.
The story was in reference to N.Y. 117-A Unlimited drink offerings prohibited law, which was created at least five years ago in response to complaints of over-serving and intoxication at bars, NYC Hospitality Alliance counsel Robert Bookman told us.
That law prohibits “selling, serving, delivering or offering to patrons an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price.”
It recently resurfaced after the New York City Hospitality Alliance posted a reminder on its site stating, “NYC restaurant and nightlife operators should familiarise themselves with the law.” This was after receiving calls from restaurants and clients who were confused over whether or not bottomless brunches were considered illegal.
However, when we reached out to the New York State Liquor Association (SLA), we were told in an email that the law does not apply to bottomless brunches, which are instead considered “events.”
According to the SLA:
Serving unlimited drinks to a patron is prohibited under the Alcoholic Beverage Control law, and instances of over serving by our licensees will be investigated and prosecuted. However, there is a limited exception in the statute when the service of alcohol is incidental to the event, such as in the case of certain brunch specials. Even under these limited exceptions, licensees still have a legal obligation not to over serve patrons. The SLA will continue to take a balanced regulatory approach by allowing licensees to conduct specials where alcohol is an accompaniment, while simultaneously cracking down on specials that promote excessive drinking.
Basically, bottomless brunches are considered legal but restaurants still have an obligation not to over-serve patrons and are not immune from investigation by the SLA.
Take for instance The Sunburnt Cow, a popular Australian burger hot spot in the East Village, which once offered patrons as many mimosas and Fosters beer they could drink within 90 minutes. After an SLA investigation, owner Heath St. Clair told the New York Post, “We are very responsible with our customers. We do not offer an unlimited brunch [anymore].”
For those curious, the punishment for promoting excessive drinking is up to $US10,000 per violation.
In short, restaurants should be careful and New Yorkers should feel free to drink (responsibly) this weekend.
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