The orange juice at Trattoria Aroma had an extra zing to it Sunday morning.
The popular brunch destination on Bryant Avenue in Buffalo celebrated the adoption of the state’s new alcohol law with a mimosa toast at 10 a.m. – the moment the so-called “brunch bill” allowing restaurants to sell alcohol on Sunday mornings took effect.
“It doesn’t taste quite as forbidden as I thought it would,” Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, quipped after sipping the traditional brunch cocktail from a champagne flute.
Ryan joined Aroma owner David A. Consentino; State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo; Erie County Legislator Patrick B. Burke, D-Buffalo; and local craft brewers and distillers to usher in an era of new alcohol regulations to replace old state laws that critics had derided as archaic and detrimental to businesses.
“Thanks for having us, Dave,” Kennedy said to Consentino moments after the toast.
“My pleasure,” Consentino responded. “Thanks for passing a bill we don’t mind complying with.”
The mirthful gathering on the outdoor patio also featured a round of bloody marys, another popular brunch libation that under old state regulations was prohibited to diners until after noon on Sundays. The new regulation opens the window for imbibing an additional two hours on Sundays, while also revising other elements of the state’s blue laws to cut red tape and lower costs for the broader alcoholic beverage industry.
Ryan said restaurateurs told him repeatedly that diners were “incredulous” about the Sunday morning restriction.
“They thought it was a gag. You’re really telling me I can’t order a drink?” he said.
Ryan co-sponsored an early version of the brunch bill, while Kennedy co-sponsored the final version that lawmakers approved in June and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law last week.
“This is, I think, the last big, symbolic Prohibition-era law that was remaining in New York State, and I was very happy to help that last vestige down,” Ryan said.
Consentino said the new law will allow his restaurant to “get the party started a little bit earlier” on Sundays, when Aroma does brisk business with its brunch menu. Consentino said he may even look to open the doors an hour earlier, since diners who want a drink with their meals no longer have to wait until noon.
The brunch bill also is expected to help the area’s growing craft beer and distillery industry by streamlining the licensing process. Craft brewers, for example, no longer have to apply for separate licenses to produce, sell and distribute their products. Under the new regulations, all of those elements are included in a single license.
“It’s more of a time savings, than money savings, but time is money,” said Ethan A. Cox, president of Community Beer Works.
Regulations can make it “intimidating” for a craft brewer to launch a business, Cox said. “When you reduce that,” he said, “you make it more inviting.”