Food & Drink

What REALLY happened in NY's illegal bottomless boozy brunch scandal

For three terrifying days, bottomless brunch was illegal in our city.

On February 24th, 2014, our right to boozy brunch -- nay, the very right to be a community! -- came under attack. The bedrock promise that New York weekends are strictly about two-plus hours of unlimited mimosas? Threatened. Nobody knows who struck first.

boozy brunch NYC
Andrea Bricco/Thrillist

Oh wait, that’s just a quote from The Matrix. We do know exactly who struck first! The NYC Hospitality Alliance started the maelstrom, by firing this unassuming tweet across the bottomless-Bellini bow of our fair city’s brunch spots.
 


Behind that link is the trade organization’s press release on the matter, which totally snitches politely cites Section 117-A of NY state’s booze laws. This particular SLA statute is clearer than a vodka tonic:

What?! No! Yes? The truth seemed obvious: Gotham’s beautiful, benevolent, Benedict-slinging, bottomless brunch spots have been ILLEGALLY pouring unlimited booze into our livers the entire time. The dream was over. Never again would a sunny Sunday begin sunny-side up and end, many drinks later, with you face-down in a couch surrounded by seven gyros and grievous shame.

No. Nonononono. NO!

NYC Boozy Brunch
Jacqueline Dole/Thrillist

But buck up! Despite the setback, we’re still the best city in the world, right? New Yorkers, for their part, reacted with that aplomb.



It was happening. The hour of judgement was upon us. TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU CAN CARRY AND HEAD FOR THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE.

No one can accuse New Yorkers of crying over spilt milk. We’re a tough bunch. That said, milk is sort of weird, and also not made of alcohol, and so, for two days, blogger outrage flowed like beer tears. Think pieces were posted. Office listservs lit up. At least one New Yorker not named Dave Infante called his mom to ask about moving back home, because what’s the point anymore, and also it would be good to save some money on rent. Together, we wept.

But this is a family magazine (neither of those words are true, but just go with it, Barry Diller!), and every damn day, New York City tells a comeback story like one you’ve never heard. The saga of the Great Illegal Boozy Brunch has a happy ending, and not like the one you used to contemplate paying for on the West Side Highway after too many endless mimosas. The hero Gotham needed was about to emerge.

Batman! Not really. Wouldn’t that be great though? NYC’s actual liberating force turned out, improbably, to be the SLA itself. On the morning of February 27th, after nearly 36 hours of panic, a liquor board rep told Business Insider in a statement that reads equally bemused & befuddled:

So, as everyone who's ever been to one knows, boozy brunches are indeed events, and events are sometimes exempt. We were saved.  

Play it again, Sam. Play it again, and again, and again. Then, play that sweet tune one more time for the shining stars at the SLA, who pulled an entire city from the jaws of despair by creating a loophole IN ITS OWN STATUTES so that we could continue to brunch like the kings & queens that we one day hope to become.

And that, dear neighbors & friends, is how it came to be that for three perilous days in February 2014, New York City lost, then won back, its right to bottomless brunch.

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Dave Infante is an Editor for Thrillist Media Group who would rather just split the check evenly, because you DID have some of that calamari, remember? Follow him on Twitter @dinfontay.

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