gocek.org's Love the Alcohol Business, Hate the Drinker
©2017, Gary Gocek, http://gary.gocek.org/, @garygocek, gary@gocek.org
The paradox of encouraging the alcohol business and jailing the drunks.
gocek.org's Love the Alcohol Business, Hate the Drinker

There's an elephant in the room, or more precisely, New York State and the greater Rochester area. Publicly, we're encouraging the "vice" businesses, such as brewing, distilling and gaming. However, we discourage the patrons with statements like "drink responsibly", or "don't blow your life savings on the slots". The elephant we don't want to see is this paradox.

In 2015, New York State licensed three new casinos in the Catskills, Schenectady and Tyre. These join nine racetrack casinos ("racinos") and five tribal casinos (on reservations). Whether or not you think this is oversaturation, there is no question that, for some reason, Governor Cuomo wants more gaming.

NYS offers breweries a tax credit of 14 cents per gallon for the first 500,000 gallons of beer produced in New York and 4.5 cents per gallon for the next 15 million gallons.

NYS exempts farm wineries, farm, distillers and farm brewers from filing annual returns listing sales made where no sales tax was collected. The state is carefully reviewing the terms and conditions of NYS Constitutional Constraints and exclusions related to NYS financial support for retail entities, in order to identify potential prospects for breweries/distilleries/wineries with a small 'on-site' retail component that is not 'primarily retail'.

NYS passed legislation that reduced licensing fees and provided other incentives to the spirits and beer industry, such as the ability to sell bottles when they are conducting tastings.

My point above is that New York State wants more alcohol to be produced. Presumably, alcohol is popular and creates jobs and economic activity, i.e., tax revenue. We likewise love the bars and restaurants and stores selling all that booze.

But, don't drink too much! See this list of penalties for driving while intoxicated. Also this, public intoxication due to alcohol is not a crime in NYS (only if due to drugs). However, disorderly or violent conduct may be treated more harshly if the perpetrator was drunk.

We (the "public" we) want more booze, and we want it to be purchased, but we end every press release, every ad, every media commentary with, "Drink responsibly." There is no one definition for that*, and we probably don't care, but anyone who messes up with alcohol spends a lot of money on legal expenses and sometimes goes to jail. Civil proceedings certainly favor the victims of drunk drivers or assailants.

* You might say laws defining blood alcohol levels for drivers "define" responsible drinking, but not all drunks drive. "Responsibly" means something different in a bar or at home or at the office holiday party. Most people don't get trashed every day, but no one thinks they're irresponsible and no one wants to take responsibility for anyone else. When you host a backyard barbecue, do you hire someone to keep an eye on everyone's drinking? No one really know what it means to drink responsibly; just know we'll punish you when you don't.

So, the state promotes drinking, and then promotes responsibility, so it's all supposed to be OK. This article is not meant to outline the horrors of drunk driving or alcoholism. This article is meant to point out the state is on the booze bandwagon and damn the consequences. Do we throw up our hands and admit the more we promote drinking, the more problems we see caused by drunks? Do we reinstate "prohibition"? Or just maybe, do we tell the booze-sellers they're welcome to engage in legal business activities, but they're no more special, and maybe even less special, than other businesses?