Bottomless brunches are illegal?

Is our brunch at risk?
Is our brunch at risk? Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

UPDATE: After a day of kvetching, the truth has come out. In an email to Business Insider, a representative for the State Liquor Association said the law doesn’t apply to bottomless brunches, as they are instead considered “events.”

According to the SLA:

“Serving unlimited drinks to a patron is prohibited under the Alcoholic Beverage Control law, and instances of over serving by our licensees will be investigated and prosecuted. However, there is a limited exception in the statute when the service of alcohol is incidental to the event, such as in the case of certain brunch specials. Even under these limited exceptions, licensees still have a legal obligation not to over serve patrons. The SLA will continue to take a balanced regulatory approach by allowing licensees to conduct specials where alcohol is an accompaniment, while simultaneously cracking down on specials that promote excessive drinking.”


Thirsty (OK, and hungry) brunchgoers, take note: your bottomless brunch may be under threat.

A little known and obviously rarely-obeyed state law just surfaced. The NYC Hospitality Alliance, a membership organization of hotels, restaurants and bars, issued a press release reminding members of the New York State Liquor Authority’s ABC Law, which “prohibits selling, serving, delivering or offering to patrons an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price.”

Bottomless brunches are a dime a dozen in NYC, as we’ve shown, so what gives? Could this turn into another “War on Brunch“?

One commenter on Eater suggested selling each drink for a penny, “problem solved.” But the fine print of the ABC Law makes that, and other sneaky cheats, also unlawful.

“The statute also prohibits licensees from creating drink specials which, in the judgment of the Authority, are attempts to circumvent the law.”

So there goes that brilliant idea!

Ana Lobo, bar manager at Poco, which offers bottomless brunch in the East Village, says she’s been in hospitality for years and had never heard of the law.

“I highly doubt that there’s a single brunch place that does unlimited that’s aware of that,” she said.

Going to brunch and drinking to our hearts content is every New Yorker’s right, but will we pay full price?

We have reached out to the SLA press office and will update with more information when we have it.

With Ben Wolford