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Archive for April, 2013

Apr 18 2013

PRESENTING AT THE COMMUNITY BOARD – LIQUOR LICENSE APPLICATION

You are required to provide the local Community Board (“CB”) with notice at least 30 days prior to filing an on-premise liquor license application the New York State Liquor Authority (“NYSLA”). The CB may then put you on their hearing agenda to find out more about your project. At the CB hearing they may ask you about everything from the type of cuisine that you plan on selling to your affiliations with any other NYSLA licensed premises. Nothing is off limits.

I am always asked, “Do I need to have a lawyer with me at this hearing?” My response, which is not going to please my fellow attorneys, is absolutely not. In fact, I typically recommend that you don’t bring an attorney there and that you should never have an attorney go in place of you. The reason is simple. If you were a CB member, would you want to hear the details about the restaurant / bar project from an attorney or directly from the owner/operator of the project? The CB does not want to hear an attorney describe the type of cuisine that you are offering, or what you will do to prevent people from lining up outside, or that you will not have dancing in your premises. They want to hear these assurances from you . . .the operator; the person responsible for ensuring that all of these assurances are going to be kept. I typically recommend that you retain an attorney to be present at the CB hearing only in the event that (i) you anticipate strong opposition to your project, or (ii) are uncomfortable with public speaking. Otherwise, save yourself money and have the person who is best able to present the details of your project present them. . .you.

In a related matter, Community Board 1 in Queens, NY, has just voted against the issuance of a liquor license for a bar where all the female staff would serve wearing only bikinis. The CB cited, amongst the reasons, that this type of establishment would not be appropriate surrounding family oriented community. The proposed name of the bar . . . “Racks.”

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Apr 05 2013

WAGE, HOUR AND TIP LAWSUITS ARE CRIPPLING THE NY RESTAURANT INDUSTRY

Strict compliance with the law in this area is difficult given the myriad of laws that pertain to employee’s wages and tips in the restaurant industry. As such, some NY lawyers have taken aim at the industry and, as a result, eateries have paid out over $70 million in settlements over wage and tip complaints in the past few years alone.

The city’s biggest names, including Nobu, Jean Georges, Sparks, Mesa Grill, Pastis, Balthazar, BLT, and the ‘21’ club have all faced similar lawsuits and have forked over millions of dollars as a result. Others have been forced to close as a result of such lawsuits, including Geoffrey Zakarian’s Country and Chris Cannon’s Alto and Convivio.

At least one of NYC’s top restaurateurs has had enough. Joe Bastianich, co-owner of Eataly, Del Posto and Babbo, who has been sued twice in NY with wage and tip complaints, vowed in 2011 that he will no longer be opening any more restaurants in this state. . . and he hasn’t. Rather he has since opened three establishments in Chicago and California giving those states the substantial tax revenue and 1000+ jobs created by the establishments. This loss of revenue and job creation is not something that even our relatively wealthy city can afford.

So what’s the solution? Comply with the law and you won’t have anything to worry about. If you are not positive that you are presently in compliance, consult with an experienced attorney immediately and have them review your wage and tip policies and procedures. Sure they will charge you for you the service . . .but you’ll get it right going forward and avoid the extremely costly fate of getting sued for a wage and/or tip violation.

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