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New York State alters booze laws to accommodate Bills’ start time for London game

You’re gonna need to plan ahead for your favorite cocktail on Sunday.

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images
Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills are in London (England, not Ontario) to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in an international contest this weekend. It’s an early morning affair, kicking off at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. On Tuesday night, governor Kathy Hochul announced a special extension of liquor laws to accommodate the unusual game time.

"With the @BuffaloBills playing across the pond on Sunday morning, I know fans will be gathering for the big game & may fancy a pint.

I'm directing the State Liquor Authority to extend the deadline for special permits, so sports bars & restaurants can serve as early as 8am. ❤️ "

Until the announcement, two things wee going to converge into a weird situation for some Bills fans.

Alcohol isn’t normally allowed to be sold in bars and restaurants in New York State until 10 a.m. on Sundays. That’s a good chunk of the first quarter without your first adult beverage. If you’re looking to get a bottle of wine or liquor for home consumption, you’re even more out of luck. Liquor stores can’t open until noon.

If you’re getting close to the 9:30 game time you only have one option; grocery and convenience stores can begin selling beer at 8 a.m.

The ban on alcohol sales between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. at restaurants and bars was going to exacerbate a broadcast problem in Rochester and beyond. The game is on NFL Network and available over the air only in the home market. If you don’t get FOX’s WUTV 29, you’ll need to go to your favorite watering hole to see the game or sign up for free trials of some streaming service.

The New York State Liquor Authority dates back to 1934 in the wake of the repeal of Prohibition in the United States. According to their site, “The [Alcoholic Beverage Control Law] was enacted by the Legislature to provide for the protection, health, welfare and safety of the people of the State.”

New York has changed their alcohol laws recently in an attempt to modernize. In 2018, they moved up the sale of alcohol at restaurants to 10 a.m. from noon in what was called the “Brunch Bill”. In 2022, the State permanently legalized to-go alcoholic drinks from restaurants that had become popular during a temporary move amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The NYS Senate also passed a law at that time that would allow liquor stores to open at 10 a.m. alongside their bar/restaurant counterparts, but it is still in committee in the Assembly.

This announcement is only temporary.

Plan ahead and check restaurant/bar websites and social media posts to make sure you’re getting what you expect this Sunday.

Note: This article was originally published prior to Hochul's announcement, pointing out the concerns. Bills fans are undefeated.