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Industry Cheers New Farm Winery Law

New law reduces State Liquor Authority's red tape hurdles for farm wineries. Some in the industry are looking ahead to the next legislative session for additional regulatory relief.

As the Long Island wine industry cheers a new law that significantly reduces the regulatory red tape they face, at least one industry leader is focusing on getting more relief in the next legislative session in Albany.

The legislation, signed into law July 22 by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, eases the reporting for out-of-state shipments, allows wineries to take part in an unlimited number of charity events and allows wineries to crush grapes for smaller operations that lack the capacity to do it for themselves.

In addition, wineries will be able to open up to five satellite tasting rooms that will be considered extensions of the winery instead of separate entities requiring individual licenses. Moreover, wineries that produce less than 1,500 gallons annually no longer need to apply for a micro-winery license. The law applies only to farm wineries.

"This bill is a huge boost for wineries across the state. Reducing the regulatory burdens on farm wineries will allow them to continue to thrive as a key tourism, agricultural, and economic engine for our state," Cuomo said in a statement.

“Everyone is very happy,” said Steven Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, an industry trade group, noting that the new law clarifies earlier “convoluted” regulation of wineries.

The measure, he said, was based on recommendations from the industry to the state agriculture commissioner in a December, 2008 report.

“It's all positive,” said Ron Goerler Jr., co-owner of Jamesport Vineyards and president of the wine council. Running a winery, he said, requires lots of time-consuming paperwork.

Aside from reducing paperwork, Goerler said the new law would have little impact on his business, which is focused on bringing visitors to his tasting room. He said he anticipates the law will be more meaningful for upstate wineries than those on Long Island.

Meanwhile, Jim Silver, general manager of Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue, said the new law may have come too late to aid the at Tanger Outlet Center in Riverhead. The winery is well into the licensing process for the shop, Empire State Cellars. Indeed, he said, he hopes the SLA won't ignore Peconic Bay's application until the new law become effective on Oct. 20, making his application moot.

Nevertheless, Silver said the law “provides a tremendous amount of relief.” The paperwork eliminated by the new law now takes two or three days a month to complete, he noted.

As for the custom crush rule, Silver said, “It's good for the whole industry" because it will create additional demand for grapes, stabilizing prices. Several wineries now do custom-crush winemaking.

Now, said Bate, the industry is focusing on the next legislative session when they hope to obtain additional regulatory relief on such issues as reporting of winery sales to retailers, which he said the state uses to find stores that do not pay appropriate taxes. He also said the industry wants to see an end to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax.

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