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Bill before the Governor for signature, being considered now. Any distillers or applilcants in New York should be contacting the Governor's office and urging him to sign Senate bill: 2019. The text and explanation of the bill can be found at the New York State Senate site, type in "S2019".

The bill permits holders of A-1 and DD licenses to sell their products to wineries which may then sell at retail those products made from 100% New York agricultural raw materials. It allows wineries to share tasting and retails sales space with a distillery. It defines "New York labeled liquor". The bill adds "fermented agricultural products" to the list of ag products.

Anyone who has tried to get their craft small batch products into Statewide distribution knows the difficulties of trying to convince a distributor to pitch it to retailers who have limited shelf space, and where you're competing with the Absolutes of the world. This bill would create a potential market network specializing in New York produced spirits and without competition from big alcohol, on a statewide basis (there are ove 200 wineries in NYS).

Please contact:

The Honorable Terryl Brown-Clemons

Acting Counsel to the Governor

State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Albany, NY 12224-0341

And ask the Counsel to lend her voice to those urging the Governor to approve this law and expand sales opportunities for New York's craft wine and spirits producers.

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You can also email the Governor here. His mailing address is:

Governor David A. Paterson

State Capitol

Albany, NY 12224

The Governor's office can be reached by phone at 518-474-8390.

I've just sent an email to the Governor and will be sending a letter to Ms. Brown-Clemens this morning.

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NEW YORK PRODUCERS: The DEC is moving to classify holders of the new "DD" Farm Distillers License as "industrial use", not "agricultural use" which was the original intention of the bill. We are working with Farm Bureau, our attorney and Ag and Markets to prevent this happening. The major difference is the criteria for the disposal of "industrial" waste are far more stringent than those for "farm waste". Please contact your local legislator and the Farm Bureau to make your opinion known. If you would like to join the effort on the legal side, it is advisable a group be formed to retain counsel and lobby with vigor. There is also the fact that if the State labels your Farm Distillery an industrial use, your local zoning comes into play and you may not be considered a Farm for the purposes of zoning compliance locally. It is our position, the State of NY defines a Farm Distillery as being "on a farm" and therefore if the State of NY issues a Farm Distillery license, all other things being in compliance with the definition of a Farm in NY, the other agencies of the State must also recognize the Farm nature of the operation.


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S2019, we have learned, was not included in the last bundle of bills sent to Governor Paterson. So there's time still to get your cards and letters to the office of the Governor to support the legislation. This important bill will permit New York State wineries to include micro distillery products made from NYS raw materials in their tastings and sell them at the winery stores statewide. There are 240 wineries in New York State, providing the new producers with a ready made marketplace of willing sales venues and a flow of tourists who will go home and a their local retailer for your products (assuming they like them of course).

Equally important, the bill defines fermented products as AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS. This is the most important aspect as it brings the Dept. of Ag and Markets into the mix, which may mitigate somewhat the influence of the SLA on matters that concern small alcoholic beverage producers.

Please write to the governor and urge him to sign this important bill. It is likely the SLA will oppose this, on the grounds they "don't want to create a whole new group of liquor stores", thereby missing the entire point of the bill. Pass this info to brewers and winemakers you know and urge them to write.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Looks like some progress has been made. Checking the New York State Senate website, the Senate and State Assembly have passed the bill. On September 15th the bill reached the Governor's desk and on September 25th it was signed into Chapter 571. An Approval Memo has not yet been posted but I am fairly certain things went through.

I spent time working in the State Assembly but never saw a bill from my Assemblyman get through so I'm not as sure about the end process. If you have any questions regarding researching bills and contacts drop me a line. I would also be more than happy to help with contact strategy for future legislation. With over 15,000 bills going through the Senate and Assembly in a given year it can be tough standing out and being noticed.

Congrats on your efforts so far in changing NYS!


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haha, not quite.....

15,000 bills get introduced in the legislature. MAYBE 2,500 will pass by end of term. Sound like effective or efficient governance? I was disenfranchised soon after starting work in the public sector. California and NY lead the pack as the most governmentally dysfunctional states in the US as determined by the Brennan Center at NYU.

Regardless, great victory for NY consumers and producers!

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  • 2 weeks later...
haha, not quite.....

15,000 bills get introduced in the legislature. MAYBE 2,500 will pass by end of term. Sound like effective or efficient governance? I was disenfranchised soon after starting work in the public sector. California and NY lead the pack as the most governmentally dysfunctional states in the US as determined by the Brennan Center at NYU.

Regardless, great victory for NY consumers and producers!

Thanks for staying on top of this issue. Maybe our e-mails made a difference (or not). Regardless, this is encouraging news.

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Yes it's true, 2019 did get signed. Unfortunately the SLA did not know it when we submitted our application for the DD license. Our original application included a detailed proposal for "alternating use" of the distillery. That was when the law did not specifically state that a distillery could hold multiple licenses. The bill clarified and stipulates that holders of an A-1 license (among others) could also hold a DD or other distilling license. Thus the need to have an "alternating use" between two separate companies (yes, the SLA at first insisted we had to start and build an entirely new facility) was eliminated. We had to send the SLA the wording from the law before we could get them to agree that we are not starting a new distillery; we are an existing distillery applying for another license. We seem to have gotten past any misunderstandings and are finishing up the application process. The lesson: Read the Law, not summaries, not Cliff Notes, go to the source and read it till you understand it.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Met with four representatives of the NEW YORK STATE LAW REVISION COMMISSION, a Senate Commission looking at revising ABC law in NY, among other laws. Two hour session with two attorneys and two Commissioners. All very astute and open to ideas, quick studies. Started the conversation with the comment they have come to realized the dire state of the regulatory side of the industry, after hearing everyone they speak with say "It's broken."

Made the following proposals to the group:

. Address the way that distilled spirits are taxed, the amount of the tax and also how it is calculated (wine gallons vs proof gallons);

. Eliminate State label approvals process altogether and simply accept the Fed label vetting process and collect the fee;

. Establish a Farm Spirits retail license category which permits growers with established farm stands on their farms to sell spirits made from their produce at retail at the farm stand;

. Move all responsibility for licensing and regulating all "micro" alcohol producers from the SLA to the Dept of Ag and Markets, keep distribution regulation at the SLA;

. Eliminate State of NY tax forms for monthly filings and rely upon the Fed reports for tracking amounts, with simple break out for goods sold out of state

Overall the group was receptive and eager to resolve the issue of administering the industry in the 21st Century. They were supportive of creation of a NY Distillers Guild and a coalition of small alcohol beverage producers in NY.

Their overriding concern is eliminating obstructions, reduction of paperwork and increased opportunities for the State to collect revenue.


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This probably is included, but they need to issue permits on a timely basis. They now require you to have your TTB license before you apply. But that doesn't mean you get your permit any faster. They cashed my check at the beginning of September. Not a word.

The whole idea that Joe's Mini-Mart and Chevron Station needs a special blessing by the full board of the SLA in order to have a cooler with some Bud in it for sale is a joke. There's no sense of helping small businesses in this state.

I have a much greater chance of going bankrupt due to state inaction than any other reason.

And it's not just the SLA, it's other agencies as well. A local business person wanted to sell some Vespa scooters here in the village. They're not readily available anywhere locally. They had to have a "Motor Vehicle Dealership" license. They filed that in May. They got their permit at the end of October. Good thing they had an existing business. Guess they're all set for next year.

I could go on, but right now I'm pretty angry.

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Well if it helps to calm your nerves, there are people out there trying to fix things. The Brennan Center at NYU released a great paper in 2006 with not just grievances with state government in New York but courses of correction. Its great to flip through if you feel the motivation. After reading the paper and working in the legislature as an intern, I found it hard to support any facets of our State's government. But hey, what can you do?


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Thanks for the info, I'll read through that.

There's also a web site for the Law Revision commission Ralph mentioned, and they've got a preliminary report (dated Sept 2008) on the ABC law. It's interesting reading too. And their twelve goals are to preserve the status quo. Goal number 1 is: preserve the integrity of the three tiered system. But then again, they think it's 1934.

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Okay so it sucks, yes it does. The SLA is an underfunded agency. Short staffed. Saddled with the task of enforcing an outdated, cobbled-together law. an intransigent Legislature. So what shall we do?

Call your Senator or State Assembly members, call both. Make it clear in the most diplomatic terms possible that the delays you are experiencing are delaying the payment of excise taxes to the State of NY. Tell them that even a modest distillery can generate up to $1million in combined excise and sales taxes in a year. Tell your local Legislator to press the SLA to address your application with haste. Be polite but firm. Remind him that local farmers stand to gain by the sale of their crops to local distillers. Do not give up. If a staff member has no answers politely ask for the next person up the line.

Tell your State Representatives the SLA is not the appropriate agency to manage agricultural alcohol production. Production of Farm Products should be in the hands of the Ag and Markets Department, not the SLA. Keep at it. Frustration is a natural reaction, I have it for breakfast, but just you get used to it because I tell you straight out, NOTHING gets done if you stop at the frustration point and do not push past it. Get involved. Call your local State Senator and Assemblyman and get an appointment and go sit right in front of them and carefully express your personal frustration. Make it PERSONAL, how does the problem affect YOU and your staff and their faimlies and the town. How does it affect tax revenue for the State. Tell them you intend to hire locally and pay lots of excise taxes and your employees will spend money locally (and pay sales taxes on it) and that you will be bringing a higher value to the produce of rural local farmers. And you'll draw tourists who will spend money then GO HOME (not requiring any new houses or schools read: higher school taxes).

Call the Law Revision Commission and ask for a meeting and go sit down at a table at the Albany School of Law and talk. Sit there in front of the attorneys assigned to do this job and tell them your concerns. But be warned.

There are two ways to get this done:

Go with SOLUTIONS, not just complaints;

Go with suggestions that include INCREASED REVENUE TO THE STATE. It doesn't have to be revenue paid by YOU. In fact of course we want to find ways to decrease the costs of doing business. Brainstorm every way you can turn your Complaints into Suggestions that identify new ways to increase State tax revenue (from outside the industry) while decreasing your tax bill.

Find your allies, folks like THE FARM BUREAU. Contact and join your local Farm Bureau, meet the local representative and their Legislative Manager.

Remember, almost everything you do you will "make up" because there is no precendent to guide you, it is also likely new to the folks at the SLA, since there have been no small distilleries operating as an industry in New York for the last four generations. So be patient with the SLA, I'm not defending the process or the decisions of the SLA Board, I'm just saying we are a totally foreign entity, without specific regulatory consideration. So we must create it and convince the Legislature its value, and also work with the SLA to develop reasonable, pracitical regulation. And in the current financial climate, any proposal we can make that adds benefit to the farmers, the economy and the State will fall upon more likely sympathetic ears.

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Thanks for the post, it's excellent with a lot of good reminders. I haven't been sitting still. I've been in contact with my legislators from the beginning. This will be their second contact with SLA.

Joined the Farm Bureau.

One of the things the SLA said when I called, was that the legislature had increased the requirements for their (the SLA's) review of applications. I didn't see anything that was obvious to me in that regard in the liquor laws, but it could be somewhere else. Are you familiar with this? Do you have a reference to the NY Code, so I can refer the legislators to that and suggest changes?

I'll go through the Law Revision committee's preliminary report in more detail again. I'd already sent an email with a bunch of comments. There's a lot more I can do. I'll spend some time with that and see what I can do.

What challenges are there from the big liquor lobbyists? I'm sure they're very interested in preserving the status quo.

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I am unaware of any "changes" in the SLA application review, except that the woman who used to vet applications has left the SLA and a new person with no previous experience in this work has been given the job. I finally went up there a couple of weeks ago and physically went through the file with her to see what the hold up was and discovered it was merely three or four documents easily acquired, but the confusion kept that news from getting to us in a timely manner.

The process, otherwise, seems still unchanged and redundant to the Fed process. This is one of the items high on the list of revisions to NYS ABC law; elimination of redundancy among reporting requirements. Where we're filing Fed forms that do the same thing or better than the State, the State should merely require we copy the State on our Fed reports.

We've also proposed: reduction of State Excise Tax for "micro" distillers; adoption of a definition for the "micro spirits producer" and including it as a FARM in Ag and Markets Law; revision of the tax code so spirits are taxed in NY based on "proof gallons", not "wine gallons"; establishment of a new retail license: Farm Spirits Shop license permitting growers to have a portion of their crop made into spirits and permitting that grower to own the brand and sell the product to consumers only at the site of the Farm where it was grown; and the big one: moving all production regulation from the SLA to the Dept of Ag and Markets (all licensing of distilleries and production regulation up to the point it is sold and leaves the distillery, whereupon the SLA regulates distribution as usual).

For all, when you speak with your legislators talk about INCREASED TAX REVENUE from NEW source. Talk FARMS and the benefit to farmers of a successfully developed micro distillery industry in NY. Talk JOBS, entry level, not previously existing, employee spending local, employee taxes paid, etc. Talk RURAL ECONOMY improvement. Talk TAX REVENUE INCREASE, oh....did I mention that already? The operative word in Albany right now is: MONEY. How can we HELP the State raise revenue? We pay alot of tax, the excise tax is not the only tax revenue we generate, sales of product generate sales tax, employees pay taxes on their earnings AND spend the money locally, stimulating local economy. Talk TOURISM, clean industry, people do not cancel their vacations they just don't go as far, periods of high fuel prices and bad economy are boons to local and regional tourism.

Don't wait, these decisions on revenue are being aggressively pursued now in Albany. We're in a great position to be a welcome new source of tax dollars but we NEED the changes proposed and we definately NEED to be free of the SLA bureaucracy and shifted to AG AND MARKETS where they actually want us to be profitable and in business. Remember, the stated SLA position: "We consider you as legal drug dealers." This is not the kind of agency that will help us to rebuild this rural agricultural industry.

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  • 3 months later...

New York Distillers should should check this link: http://www.lawrevision.state.ny.us/PreliminaryReportrv90208.pdf

This report gives you an idea what is underway at the NEW YORK STATE LAW REVISION COMMISSION has learned and where it is headed.

NOW IS THE TIME, contact your Legislators and demand the State take action to correct the ridiculous policies controlling ag spirits production. The State of NY like every other goverment in the US needs revenue and the success of small agricultural distillers in New York promises a windfall of NEW tax revenue opportunities and still improve the climate and set the stage for a revitalization of our craft in NY.

We are calling for Public Hearings on the failure of the SLA and the State to address the problems of producers specifically, including those who grow our raw materials. Please contact your Legislator and make your position clear, this is not about alcohol, it's not about the distributors or the retailers, it's about agriculture, craft, tourism, tax revenue, employment and so much more and those issues must be addressed with the mindset that we will make it work, work well and pay off for everyone, but the SLA is NOT an appropriate regulator of PRODUCTION of Ag spirits in NY.

The second point: whether it's micro brewing, farm wine making or ag distilling, the end product is a FARM PRODUCT and should be regulated and supported by the Department of Ag and Markets.


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  • 1 month later...

NEW YORK DISTILLERS GUILD forming. First meeting coming up. Look for announcement. Meeting will be in Albany at the headquarters of the NY FARM BUREAU. The choice of the venue is deliberate, meant to reinforce the fundamental character of small NY distillers as Agricultural, as opposed to "industrial".

We hope all distillers and those applying for permits to distill in New York, in particular those who consider themselves to be Agricultural, "Farm Distilleries" will be there. The agenda is not set. Please consider specific issues you would like to see included. Remember, this is a first meeting, the goal is to come together, meet each other and decide to work together for the common good of our undertakings. For my part, I expect this group to be necessarily politically active and not a singularly promotional partnership looking for discounts and such (though marketing efforts are certainly an important part of the advantages of organizing).

For further information about the meeting and get your name on the list, contact:

Sarah Stern Crowell, AICP

Project Manager

Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation

4303 US Route 9

Hudson, New York 12534


518-828-0901 fax

See you there, or at ADI out west.

Ralph Erenzo

Tuthilltown Spirits

Gardiner, NY

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  • 3 weeks later...


Tuesday, April 21

10:00 am - 4 pm

Lunch included


Albany, NY

Agenda being assembled.

Contact SARAH CROWELL to put your name on the list of attendees. Her contact info is above in last post.

Morning session devoted to Introductions, Discussion, Organization and Draft Mandate'

Afternoon may include Legislators and other important Governmental or non-distillers who are valuable to ensuring our success.

Ralph Erenzo

Tuthilltown Spirits

Gardiner, NY

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April 21, 2009 at 10:00am

New York Farm Bureau - 159 Wolf Road, Albany, NY 12205


10:00 Greeting and introductions

10:10 Brief welcome – why are we here?

10:20 Discussion of opportunities and challenges facing micro-distillers and development of a list of

priorities/goals for the guild

11:15 break

11:30 Organizational discussion /mission statement

1. Mission statement

2. Membership? Type of organization? Bylaws? Board of directors? Voting?

3. Roles and responsibilities

12:30 Lunch

1:00 Discussion of current and proposed spirits regulations in NYS with Phil Giltner from the Dept. of Ag

and Markets

2:00 Next steps


Proposed Mission Statement: The “New York Spirits Producers Guild” is an association which

membership comprises New York State licensed producers of beverage alcohol. The mission of the Guild

is the ongoing support, development and promotion of small agriculture-based beverage spirits; to

engage with New York growers and the State of New York through its agencies, which affect the

production and distribution of the products of licensed New York Distillers, Rectifiers, Blenders and

Infusers; to develop and propose progressive legislation that will have a positive effect upon Spirits

Producers and their agricultural suppliers and help to ensure the successful future for both.

Membership: The membership may be of various types including:

1. Full – New York State Licensed distillers, rectifiers, blenders and infusers; this allows for

the small infusion operations using NY herbs and other basic materials and GNS to

produce products but who do not actually distill the final product. A “Producer” of

product made with distilled spirits;

2. Associate – Any other associated party including but not limited to Growers,

Development Corporations, Coopers, Shippers, Wholesalers, Retailers, Restaurants,

Wineries and Breweries

Type of Organization: For now, suggest an unincorporated association with a small steering Committee

to vet and propose a slate of Directors. Simple for now. But foresee the need for some sort of formal

incorporated non-profit organization coming up quickly.

Suggested Board structure: Full voting members of the Board must be producers of product and licensed in New

York State under authority of the SLA. At start, suggest:

• Three (3) voting Board Members from Guild membership;

• One (1) Board seat to a representative from the non-voting Associate Membership, nonvoting,

chosen by the Associate Membership, could be a Full Member holding seat for

Associate Members but the seat still comes without Board voting right;

• One seat for the Guild Attorney, non-voting;

• One reserved voting seat for (eventual) Executive Director;

• One reserved non-voting seat for (eventual) “President” or “Chair” or “King”, whatever.

Voting: Suggest all Full Members have voting rights, one member, one vote in all general issues the

Board typically puts before the General Membership. Associate Members have no right of vote on Guild

matters, except as a voice in Guild matters in the form of the (non-voting) Associate Representative on

the Board.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The NYS Legislature is considering Senate Bill 2637, which establishes a new license sub-class of the A-1 Distillery License. The text of the bill may be read at the NYS SENATE site, click on BILLS AND LAWS and enter "S2637" and select "Text" to read the bill.

The intent of this proposed amendment to NYS ABC Law, permitting shared use of facilities among some classes of distillers is a good idea. However, the proposal is going in the exact opposite direction from that which was agreed among the members of the new NEW YORK CRAFT DISTILLERS GUILD; which is to simplify the law, not further complicate it. The proposed law also does not include shared use of facilities by brewers and distillers, a natural and traditional relationship that greatly improves the probability of success for both the brewer and the small distiller.

At the recent first organizing meeting of New York Distillers, it was unanimously agreed the license classes need wholesale revision and a serious haircut down to perhaps three categories. It is also agreed that there should be no distinction made between spirits made of fruit and spirits of grain when it comes to law which governs sale of these products. So the introduction of this very specific and narrowly construed law is premature and ill conceived, though the intent is worthy of merit.

New York Distillers should contact their representatives in the NY Legislature and express their concerns and disagreement with the addition of new license classes which further parse out details, limiting them arbitrarily to certain license holders. Ethyl alcohol is ethyl alcohol whether it comes from fruit or grain; and the various types should not be discriminated one against the other.

The bill is SENATE BILL 2637. Make the point also there should be no further changes to distillery law till the distillers are consulted and included in the law making process as a group.

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I have been invited to join in a roundtable discussion hosted by the NYS LAW REVISION COMMISSION June 24th. I will be asked to comment upon the position of distillers in New York on proposed changes to ABC law and SLA regulations; and I'm guessing the general state of our growing industry as it relates to law, regulation and enforcement.

I believe it will be very important to speak for the Distillers Guild based upon the concensus of opinion on a very specific short list of immediate concerns; and to then present at least the skeleton of a long range plan for the future of Farm and Micro distillers in NY.

Please read the bill S.2637, available on the NY State Senate website under Bills and Laws. Then please make your comments here and include brief comment on where you'd like to see the State and the industry head for the future.

I will prepare a general position statement for presentation; and then be better prepared to represent the general opinion of the Distillers Guild membership.

Ralph Erenzo

Tuthilltown Spirits

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By clicking the below link, you can reach the New York State Legislative Retrieval System.


In the left drop down box make sure you are selecting “Bill No.” in the search box type in the bill number you are searching for (in this case S2637) in the right drop down box make sure it is on 2009 (You can search legislation for previous years, up to 5 years back as a member of the general public). Check all the boxes below the search fields so you can see the bill texts and the memo that accompanied the legislation. The memos are sometimes easier to read through before you get into the bill text because you will have a greater understanding of what to look for as changes.

In addition to this bill being introduced by Larkin in the Senate, the bill has a SAME AS in the Assembly. The bill in the Assembly was submitted by Magee and is number A6393.

S2637 Larkin is currently in the Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business Committee. The committee is chaired by (D) Stachowski. One of the bill sponsors, Volker, is also in the committee.

A6393 Magee is in the Economic Development Committee, chaired by (D) Robin Schimminger. This bill has no sponsors other than Magee so it is less likely to get out of this committee. However, if it makes it through the senate first it will pick up a couple I’m sure.

The fact that these bills have no fiscal implications listed helps improve their chances of getting through committee and onto the floor.

Consideration should be made to still send out a mailing from our distilleries to our local representatives and the above mentioned members of state government.

I’m really glad to hear that Ralph has been invited to join the NYS Law Revision Commission, but worry that these bills may leave committee before that June 24th meeting date. Most legislation that will be put through for the legislative term is completed before the end of June. It is significantly easier to attempt to stop a new law from being passed than it is to have it removed from the books down the road and I think its better to be safe than sorry.

Ralph, do you think you can spearhead a letter summarizing our feelings towards this legislation and involvement of the NY Craft Distillers Guild? We can all sign it and send it out from our respective businesses before the end of the month.

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I spoke with someone working on this bill in Assembly and it seems it is unlikely to get onto an agenda this session. He agreed, upon learning we have organized (and quite surprised at the number of ag distillers in the group) it is important to step back and for the State to draw in both the Distillers and the Growers into the Legislative process, in particular the proposal of new Alcohol law or new license classes. He agreed the law needs to be simplified, not more complicated.

I will compose a brief formal statement and post it here for review and comment. I would prefer to have at least a majority view (if not a consensus) of the Guild's highest priorities and thinking to present as a united group going into the Law Commission round table discussion.

Many at the first Guild meeting had interesting perspectives which may be helpful in bringing together the elements of a "statement" I could read into the record at the roundtable discussion on behalf of the Guild members. Those so inclined would you please make some (terse) comments on the specific issues you'd like to see included in the discussion. Keep the list brief and focused on the most necessary changes short term, and long term. Thank you.

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  • 7 months later...

The NEW YORK STATE LAW REVISION COMMISSION has just released part two of their comprehensive study of NY Alcohol Beverage Control Law and the State Liquor Authority. It is available on the COMMISSION's site. It is lengthy and covers the entire range of alcohol related interests. But for the new distiller intending to operate in NY, it should be required reading; at least those sections dealing with Winery, Brewery and Distillery laws.

It should be a major concern of small producers in NY and at the top of the agenda for the next meeting of the NY CRAFT DISTILLERS GUILD.

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