Commissioner Moran’s More Booze in Public Places Plan in Jeopardy

Dillon Moran

Saratoga Springs Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran seems to be obsessed with expanding the number of outdoor public venues in the city where alcohol can be consumed.

In rambling remarks at the April 19, 2022, City Council meeting he announced a number of initiatives including a plan to have the city pass its own law allowing restaurants that expand into public areas in front of their businesses to serve alcohol in those outdoor spaces. Needless to say, the ability to serve alcohol is essential to making these outdoor dining extensions viable. Not surprisingly, though, Moran offered no actual language for the law, and it appears he is in denial about the reality that the city does not have the authority to implement such an initiative.

At the Council meeting, Moran also talked about somehow allowing the consumption of alcohol at “special events.” He has a vision of “Beer Gardens” that will have some kind of presence at events such as 5K races. He also envisions expanding alcohol use into Congress Park, but it is unclear what form this would take.

Commissioner Moran: This is to inform you that there is something called the New York State Liquor Authority

The New York State legislature has granted broad authority to the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA).

If you want to do pretty much anything commercially that involves liquor, you must first get the approval of the NYSLA. The NYSLA jealously maintains its power and getting anything from them involves, at the very least, extensive paperwork. Governor Cuomo briefly restrained their powers during the pandemic by issuing an executive order allowing restaurants to serve alcohol in temporary, expanded outdoor dining sites.

As of July 7, 2022, that option will expire unless the New York State Legislature acts to extend the date.

In his campaign last fall, Commissioner Moran set out an ambitious goal to allow restaurants in the city to have permanent access to the public sidewalks and parking places adjacent to their establishments. He claimed to have successfully solicited support for extending the executive order to allow alcohol in these spaces from Governor Hochul during a visit she made to Saratoga. (This blogger is highly skeptical that the Governor made any such commitment). Moran promised, if elected, to also vigorously promote the extension of the ability of restaurants to serve alcohol in expanded outdoor dining settings with the New York Legislature.

So far Governor Hochul has made no announcements that would indicate her support for extending that law, and it appears extremely unlikely that the New York State Legislature will support such an initiative before it adjourns.

In the absence of any state action, at the Tuesday, April 19, 2022, Council meeting, Moran announced that he would be introducing a local law that would authorize the right of restaurants to sell alcohol on the public rights-of-way adjacent to their businesses. Conspicuously absent from his remarks was any acknowledgment that his effort to get state legislation passed or to get Governor Hochul to act had failed. Instead, he asserted that passing a local law could allow restaurants to serve liquor in expanded outdoor dining venues and that this was not only possible but a better option than getting state permission.

The problem is the doctrine of preemption prohibits municipalities in New York from adopting local legislation that conflicts with state legislation, and the New York State Legislature has granted the authority to regulate alcohol to the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA).

The following is an explanation of the NYSLA powers.

I find it hard to believe that City Attorney Tony Izzo has advised Moran that the city has the authority to usurp the New York State Liquor Authority’s powers.

What Kind of City Do We Want to Be?

Saratoga Springs is a beautiful and charming city with a vibrant historic downtown. The question is do we want to become known simply as a party town?

Recent proposals from Public Safety Commissioner Montagnino to block off Caroline Street and Commissioner Moran’s proposals to extend outdoor alcohol venues raise the question of what direction the city should go in.

It is so unfortunate to have lost Skip Scirocco. With the city seemingly at a crossroad, his experience and insights would be more valuable now than ever.

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