Alcohol laws of New York

Location of New York

State Liquor AuthorityEdit

The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) and its agency arm, the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC), were established under New York State Law in 1934 to "regulate and control the manufacture and distribution within the state of alcoholic beverages for the purpose of fostering and promoting temperance in their consumption and respect for and obedience to law." The SLA is also authorized by statute to "determine whether public convenience and advantage will be promoted by the issuance of licenses to traffic in alcoholic beverages … and to carry out the increase or decrease in the number thereof and the location of premises licensed … in the public interest."[1]

For consumption on-premisesEdit

In New York, for the purposes of state law, there are only four hours out of each day of the week (with the exception of Sunday) in which alcohol may not be served: 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. This was designed to accommodate New York City nightlife as well as late night workers statewide in general. Some upstate areas such as Buffalo, Albany, and Saratoga Springs retain the 4am closing time although individual counties are free to set an earlier "last call." In Binghamton, this is at 3:00 a.m.; in Syracuse, Plattsburgh, Oneonta, and Rochester, bars close at 2:00 a.m.; and Elmira, Geneva, and Ithaca, have some of the earliest closing times in the state at 1 a.m. For a complete list of closing hours by county, see.[2]

B.Y.O. PolicyEdit

The SLA does not permit establishments to allow patrons to "B.Y.O.B." if the establishment does not have a license or permit to sell alcoholic beverages.[3] The only exception to this rule is that establishments with fewer than 20 seats can permit B.Y.O.B.[4][5] However, the SLA does not have authority to take any direct action against an establishment that is not licensed with the SLA, unless the establishment is then or will be in the future applying for a liquor license.[4]


Research has been conducted into the association between closing times and crime in New York. Counties with later closing times tend to have greater rates of violent crime (except gun violence), but not non-violent crime.[6] This was true even after adjusting for socio-demographic factors.

For consumption off-premisesEdit

Only liquor stores may obtain a license to sell liquor for off-premises consumption. Grocery and drug stores may obtain a license to sell beer alone or beer and "wine products", such as wine coolers (but not wine).[7] Minors visiting a liquor store must be accompanied by an adult at all times; a violation can lead to the owner or manager being charged with second-degree unlawfully dealing with a minor, a Class B misdemeanor.

Until the mid-2000s, sales of beer for off-premises consumption were prohibited statewide before noon on Sundays, a remnant of a royal decree during the Colonial era, and between 3–6 a.m. any day. Changes to the law made in the last years of Governor George Pataki's administration loosened those restrictions, and now beer sales are only prohibited from 3–8 a.m. Sundays. Counties are free to adjust those hours in either direction, all the way to midnight and noon, and allow 24-hour beer sales on other days of the week.[8]

The law also changed for liquor stores. They may now open on Sundays. (although not before noon) They must still remain closed on Christmas, all day.[8]

A few years after those changes, Governor David Paterson sought to allow supermarkets to sell wine as well. He argued that the increase in excise taxes collected would help the state close its budget deficit. The proposed law aroused so much opposition from liquor store owners that it was never voted on by either house of the New York State Legislature.

Ownership restrictionsEdit

A provision unique to New York requires that every license to sell wine or spirits at retail for off-premises consumption be held by a single individual who lives within a few miles of the store and holds no other such licenses in the state. It was intended to prevent any chain liquor stores from doing business in the state, and none have ever done so. However, some proprietors open other stores in the names of their family members while maintaining complete control over the other establishments. Collaboration isn't only limited to families, for example, Premier Group in western New York has three locations each individually owned and operated.

Dry communitiesEdit

There are no dry counties in New York as they are not allowed to make that decision. However, individual cities and towns may. In the case of towns, the decision would also be binding on any villages within them, or the parts of villages within them. Cities and towns may become totally dry, forbidding any on- or off-premises alcohol sales, or partially dry by forbidding one or the other or applying those prohibitions only to beer or to wine and spirits.[9]

Currently there are 7 dry towns in the state, all in lightly populated rural areas upstate:[10]

Ten towns forbid on-premises consumption but allow off-premises; four allow both only at a hotel open year-round. Seventeen disallow only special on-premises consumption. The town of Spencer in Tioga County allows only off-premises and special on-premises consumption. Williamson, in Wayne County, bans on-premises sale of beer at race tracks, outdoor athletic fields and sports stadia where admission is charged. In all, there are 39 partially dry towns.[10]

In 2019, the Town of Argyle in Washington County voted to repeal the town's dry status. Argyle had made 11 attempts prior to do so. As a result, there are now only 7 remaining dry towns in New York State.[11]

Drinking ageEdit

In response to the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, which reduced by up to 10% the federal highway funding of any state which did not have a minimum purchasing age of 21, the New York Legislature raised the drinking age from 19 to 21, effective December 1, 1985. (The drinking age had been 18 for many years before the first raise on December 4, 1982, to 19.) Persons under 21 are prohibited from purchasing alcohol or possessing alcohol with the intent to consume, unless the alcohol was given to that person by their parent or legal guardian. There is no law prohibiting persons under the age of 21 consuming alcohol that was given to them by their parent or legal guardian.[12] Persons under 21 are prohibited from having a blood alcohol level of 0.02% or higher while driving.[13][14]

Drunk drivingEdit

Like every other state in the United States, driving under the influence is a crime in New York, and is subject to a great number of regulations outside of the state's alcohol laws. New York's maximum blood alcohol level for driving is 0.08% for persons over the age of 21 and there is a "zero tolerance" policy for persons under 21. Minors caught with any alcohol in the blood (defined legally as 0.02% or more, presumably to avoid false positives) are subject to license revocation for 6 months or more. Other penalties for drunken driving include fines, license suspension/revocation, and possible imprisonment, and in some cases the implementation of an ignition interlock device. A lesser charge, driving with ability impaired (DWAI), may apply when a driver's BAC exceeds 0.05%.[15]


Research suggests that misdemeanor drunk driving offenses, but not felony drunk driving offenses, are related to county-based closing times for on-premises licensed venues.[16] Requirements for ignition interlock device's for first-time DWI offending introduced with Leandra's Law might explain why there was no relationship between alcohol availability and felony drunk driving offenses.

Public intoxicationEdit

New York State has no law against being intoxicated from alcohol in public, but there is a law prohibiting other substances. Any person found under the influence of a substance other than alcohol in public who is endangering themselves and others is guilty under the New York State Penal Code. This also applies to those found under the influence and bothering others or damaging public or private property.[citation needed]

Drinking in public was outlawed in New York City by Ed Koch in 1979.[17] The law was originally pitched as targeting antisocial derelicts congregating in parks and on sidewalks, with Frederick E. Samuel, one of the measure's proponents in the New York City Council, stating "We do not recklessly expect the police to give a summons to a Con Ed worker having a beer with his lunch".[17] By the end of the year similar laws had spread to municipalities in Westchester County.[18] In March 2016, drinking in public in Manhattan was decriminalized. [19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Agency Mission Statement". Liquor Authority.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-18. Retrieved 2012-03-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-09-11. Retrieved 2013-07-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b Lisa Fickenscher (March 13, 2009). "Most BYOB restaurants are breaking the law". Crain Communications. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-16. Retrieved 2015-02-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Schofield, Timothy P.; Denson, Thomas F. (2013). "Alcohol Outlet Business Hours and Violent Crime in New York State" (PDF). Alcohol and Alcoholism. 48: 363–369. doi:10.1093/alcalc/agt003.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-31. Retrieved 2014-07-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ a b "Provisions for county closing hours". New York State Liquor Authority. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. Retrieved March 21, 2012.
  9. ^ "Laws of New York - ABC Article 9 Local Option". Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  10. ^ a b "Local Options: List of Dry Towns and Partially Dry Towns" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-11-24., New York State Liquor Authority;27 February 2013; retrieved 24 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Argyle Votes 'Yes' to Alcohol". Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  12. ^ "New York ABC Law Article 5:s65.c/2(b)". Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  13. ^ "New York State 'Zero Tolerance Law'". State of New York Governor's Traffic Safety Committee. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  14. ^ "Westchester.gove" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-01. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
  15. ^ New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: Frequently Asked Questions: Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Archived 2012-06-26 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Schofield, Timothy P.; Denson, Thomas F. (2013). "Temporal Alcohol Availability Predicts First-Time Drunk Driving, but Not Repeat Offending". PLOS One. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071169. PMC 3737138.
  17. ^ a b Quindlen, Anna (May 10, 1979). "New York to Ban Alcoholic Drinks in Public Areas." The New York Times. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  18. ^ Fischer, Arlene (October 21, 1979). "Localities Temper Public Drinking." The New York Times. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  19. ^ "District Attorney Vance, Commissioner Bratton, Mayor De Blasio Announce New Structural Changes to Criminal Summonses Issued in Manhattan" (press release). March 1, 2016.