Posted on | December 22, 2015
Written by | W.R. Tish
As new SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley settles in, we learn that an open door is key to his plan for progress.
Looking back, the career track of Vincent Bradley gave him diverse preparation for his current position as Chairman of New York’s State Liquor Authority (SLA). Several years at Deloitte & Touche in Manhattan had him doing audits in manufacturing, finance, charities and real estate. With both CPA status and a law degree, Bradley clerked for the State Court Appellate Division in Albany, then he moved to a Wall Street firm, Brown & Wood, working in litigation.
Before long, his dream of being a District Attorney in Manhattan became a reality. His accounting background landed him in the white collar unit, where for seven years he handled cases involving organized crime, labor racketeering and political corruption.
While he lives upstate and works primarily in Albany, the city is still familiar turf. “I lived here for about eleven years, all in Manhattan, but pretty much six different neighborhoods in the eleven years,” he recalls. “And I know [how] one bad bar can affect thousands of people.”
Appointed last summer by Governor Cuomo, Vincent Bradley is now challenged with enforcing New York’s liquor laws as well—not to mention leading the “working group” the Governor announced at the latest Summit in October, with the goal of reevaluating the entire liquor code. Rather ambitiously, Chairman Bradley is aiming to complete four full working group sessions and turn in a final report by the end of February.
Sitting down with the Chairman at the Harlem office of the SLA in November, we found him to be fundamentally positive and especially open-minded. “The large majority—99% of the business owners I have come into contact with—are conscientious business owners,” he notes. “All they’re looking to do is follow the law, and sometimes they don’t realize they’re not following it, and it’s important for them to understand when they’re not.”
Legislatively, it is still too soon to tell, but it is already clear that, being at the helm of both the working group and the just-announced roundtables starting March, specifically to examine interstate shipping, Vincent Bradley enjoys engaging members of the industry directly.
All the more reason for everyone who does business in New York to get to know him better. He is just getting started, and the Chairman’s proverbial door is definitely open.
“On the Chairman’s Job…
There is clearly an enforcement aspect to this job, particularly in New York City, and certainly I’m prepared for that. And then there is the business aspect of it. The interesting part is that you’re dealing with the smallest business that exists—one person in a liquor store that runs it all day—as well as some of the largest in the world.
I feel like I have a lot under my belt now, as far as this industry goes. The Governor instilled a shift in attitude throughout state government: we’re now working to remove obstacles rather than acting as a hindrance. The industry has exploded because this administration has created an environment that allowed it to.
“On Agency Priorities…
Enforcement will continue to be a priority, particularly the underage enforcement. The prior Chairman put a focus on that, and I intend to continue to do that. I’ve had experience with pretty much every one of the law enforcement agencies in my former life as a DA. The enforcement unit in the SLA has made tremendous improvements in the number of cases they have brought.
We’re still streamlining the licensing application process. One of the greatest things that happened before my time was the temporary permit—to get them up and running within ten days after applying. This is tremendous because these are smaller businesses; they all have money invested, and the longer they are closed the less likely they are to succeed. So we’re going to try to make it even quicker. We are in the process of setting it up so that all licenses can be submitted online.
“On the New ‘Working Group’…
I think that the first meeting went, at least in my estimation, very well. We [the SLA] are not really directing where this should go—it’s really the industry that’s driving this. There’s a number of different players representing different aspects of the industry, if not every aspect of the industry, and we’ll take written submissions as well. There’s gonna have to be a lot of give and take, and we don’t want to get bogged down with one hot-button issue. The point is, hopefully to revise the statutes, to modernize the law and to make it workable for someone who is not familiar with it. That’s my first goal: to try to reorganize the application process in such a way that if you’re a farm brewery, you would only need to go to the farm brewery section to know the farm brewery statutes.
“On Roundtable Success…
Our Roundtables [last summer and fall] were highly successful. One was in Utica, one was in Rochester, one in Cooperstown. That’s the whole theme of it: to bring these agencies to the people. We were able to get officials from state Tax, Labor, Empire State Development, Agriculture and myself all in one room. And we had the owners of wineries, breweries, even liquor store owners in there. A lot of the questions we heard were not questions that we’d heard before.
I met a new business owner from Black Button Distilling in Rochester at one of the Governor’s Roundtables, who actually moved back to New York because the laws made it very beneficial for him to open here. So, he came from DC, and he’s exploded—his distillery is now apparently selling in seven states. His one issue was that he can’t afford to hire a salesman full-time yet, yet he’s not allowed, under the law, to hire a salesman who works for anyone else. Well, we were able to change that very quickly, which we did at the Governor’s Summit. And now, he can hire a solicitor to work for him who can also work for another distillery.
“On Not Saying ‘No’…
Up until about six years ago, I think the answer that people got when they called this agency was always “No,” rather than “Is that a good idea?” And if it is a good idea and we can figure out if the law does allow it, then let’s solve it ourselves. They’ve done that [at the SLA] since before I got here—in an amazing fashion.
If there’s something happening in your business that we’re a major part of, and it is hindering your business, I would like to hear about it. And then we’ll sit down and figure out if there is something we can do about it.