A toast, to craft beverages: Albany eases labeling laws

Barreling ahead: It's now easier (and less expensive) to register new brand labels (and renew old ones) with the New York State Liquor Authority.

Good news for Long Island’s bubbling craft-beverage industries: New state laws make it easier to register brand labels for your innovative alcoholic brews.

Governor Andrew Cuomo this week signed legislation cutting some of the regulatory red tape slowing down vintners, mead makers and other industrious craft brewers – specifically, eliminating rules that required brand-label registration requests to be filed with the New York State Liquor Authority by certified, registered or overnight mail.

Playing half a pace beyond the Pony Express, the paper-pushing was a drag on microbreweries and vineyards eager to commercialize their homegrowns. But the new legislation – introduced to the State Senate in May by Westchester Sen. Terrence Murphy (R-40th Dist.) and to the Assembly in June by a bipartisan coalition of statewide representatives – spurs the process into the 21st century.

The state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law now permits online brand-label registration, with applications submitted electronically and processed posthaste. The Liquor Authority, which already charges a registration fee for alcoholic-beverage brand labels, may charge an electronic-submission “processing fee,” according to the governor’s office, or authorize a third party to do so.

Gov. Cuomo: Eliminating “artificial barriers.”

But craft-beverage barons will be paying those fees less often: The new law also dials back label-registration renewals from one year to three.

The whole idea, according to Cuomo, is to “cut red tape, lower costs and roll back burdensome regulations in order to foster more growth, more jobs and more economic activity.”

“By removing the paper requirement and providing an electronic option for companies to register for brand labels, we’re building on this work, breaking down more artificial barriers for businesses and helping to ensure the continued strength of this state’s beer, wine, cider and spirits industry,” the governor said.

Russell Hearn, managing partner at Mattituck-based contract winemaking facility Premium Wine Group, said he “100 percent support(s)” any move that reduces “the unnecessary and onerous burden” placed upon craft-beverage makers seeking to register their brands, including the 18 wineries producing some 100 different wines each vintage at PWG’s 35,000-square-foot Wine Country facility.

“This minimizes something that really wasn’t necessary in the first place,” said Hearn, who doubles as Premium Wine Group’s director of winemaking and believes the easing of regulations will provide as many benefits to established alcoholic-beverage producers as those still ripening on the vine.

Russell Hearn: In any business, every drop counts.

“It affects everybody,” he said. “Before you had to refile every year. If you’re doing one label, that’s work, but if you’re doing 21 labels, that’s a lot of work.

“Doing it every three years obviously reduces that burden.”

Murphy, who introduced the Senate bill in May, said the “pro-business legislation moves the State Liquor Authority into the 21st Century.”

“The signing of this bill sends an important message to the industry that we are modernizing our laws to make them friendlier to entrepreneurs and enthusiasts,” the senator said in a statement.

While the new laws aren’t likely to “encourage people to all of a sudden start a business who wouldn’t have started a business before,” they are another example of Cuomo’s “pro-business and pro-craft-beverage-business” philosophies, according to Hearn – and a clear win for those already inclined to bottle their best brews.

“It’s definitely a reduced expense,” Hearn told Innovate LI. “And that helps every business.”

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