A little-known New York law caused quite the stir over the Internet last week, as New Yorkers were dismayed that bottomless brunches were considered illegal! Some of New York’s most notable venues use bottomless brunches to attract business, and the patrons have grown quite fond of it, making this shocking revelation headline news. The New York State law (N.Y. 117-A) prohibits “selling, serving, delivering or offering to patrons an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price,” according to the New York State Liquor Authority’s (SLA) website. This law was created 5 years ago to address complaints of over-serving and intoxication at bars.
Recently, the New York City Hospitality Alliance posted a reminder on its website stating, “NYC restaurant and nightlife operators should familiarize themselves with the law.” This was a direct response to the flood of calls from owners who were unsure whether bottomless brunches were legal. The SLA responded by releasing a statement assuring proprietors that bottomless brunches fell under an exception to N.Y. 117-A, because they are considered “events.”
The SLA stated that although these “events” fall under the exception to the law, establishments with liquor licenses still have a legal obligation not to over serve patrons. The SLA is attempting to take a balanced approach to enforcing the law: allowing alcohol as an accompaniment to brunch, while at the same time taking a hard stance against venues promoting excessive drinking.
In short, bottomless brunch is legal, but there’s a thin line between unlimited drinks and what the SLA might consider the promotion of excessive drinking. While it is still legal to offer bottomless brunch in New York, restaurants have to put forth sensible brunch policies that don’t allow patrons to become excessively drunk. For now, bottomless brunch is here to stay and New Yorkers can breathe a sigh of relief.