Over the past several years the New York State Liquor Authority has been receiving inquiries regarding the sale of beer and cider for off-premises consumption in growlers.
A growler is a glass, ceramic or stainless steel jug used to transport draft beer in the United States and Canada. They are commonly sold at breweries and brew pubs as a means to sell take-out craft beer. While 64 US fl. oz. is the most popular growler size, growlers are commonly found in US 32 fl. oz. (sometimes referred to as a howler or half growler), 1 liter and 2 liter sizes.
There is some confusion among bar owners that sell draft beer whether it is legal to sell beer for off-premises consumption in a container other than the original sealed container received from the manufacturer or wholesaler.
Sections 105(5) and 105(11) of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law require package and wine stores to keep liquor or wine in the original sealed containers received from the manufacturer or wholesaler. The only exception is a container that is opened for tasting. Given these provisions, liquor and wine sold for off-premises consumption must be sold to the consumer in the original, sealed container. Neither liquor nor wine can be poured into another container and sold to the consumer.
Notably, beer and cider are not mentioned in either section 105(5), section 105(11) or section 106(2) (a). In the view of the Authority, this means that beer and cider do not have to be sold to consumers in the original container. Accordingly, licensees selling beer or cider at retail for off-premises consumption may pour the beer or cider from the original container into a growler for the consumer. The growler may be one provided or sold by the licensee, or one provided by the consumer.
Therefore, it has been decided by the NYSLA that bars serving draft beer can fill customer’s growlers with beer to be consumed off premises.
Bar owners must be aware that while the sale of beer or cider using growlers is permissible under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, local “open container” ordinances may restrict the ability of the consumer to leave the licensed premises with an unsealed growler.
If you have any questions regarding the rules restricting the use of open containers or if you find yourself in violation of an open container ordinance, contact a legal professional for reliable advice.