New NY laws change liquor landscape

With two strokes of his pen, Gov. Eliot Spitzer changed the liquor industry landscape in New York this week.

(1.) He signed into law a bill allowing liquor distilleries to hold tastings at their facilities, just as winemakers are allowed to do at theirs.

(2.) He signed a bill legalizing, for the first time since Prohibition was repealed, liquor auctions in the state.

Christie’s, the world's leading art business and a supporter of the new auction law along with the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) which lobbied for it, immediately announced plans to hold the first liquor auction through NYWines Christie's.

“Having followed the passage of the bill very closely, we are now able to formally announce our plans for an auction to include collectible spirits this December. We are currently accepting consignments of vintage cognac, armagnac, Scottish, Irish and American whiskies, bourbon and other traditional spirits,” said Richard Brierley, head of Christie’s Americas Wine Sales. “Christie’s is pleased that the efforts of the Distilled Spirits Council have resulted in this positive change in New York state law.”

DISCUS estimates that millions of dollars in exclusive spirits sales -- and their concurrent sales taxes the state would have gained -- have been lost to London, Paris, Glasgow and other auction centers around the globe because of the auction prohibition.

Cressy noted that the new law also allows spirits tastings at the auctions, just as it is already allowed for wine auctions. Nationally, 17 states permit wine auctions, but, with the addition of New York, only eight allow spirits auctions.

The legislation, Senate Bill 3606, was sponsored by Sen. George Winner and passed the Senate 58-1 on June 19, and unanimously passed the Assembly the following day. It goes into effect 60 days after the governor’s signature.

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