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Archive for the 'license' Category

Sep 08 2014

YELP NOW HAS COURT PERMISSION TO CHANGE RESTAURANT RATINGS FOR MONEY

Yelp logo. (PRNewsFoto)
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has recently ruled that Yelp can revise, edit and prioritize business reviews based on advertising money that the site receives from the business.

This high profile ruling really destroys the veil of impartiality that Yelp was benefitting from for all these years.  Now its crystal clear that Yelp may (although they have not admitted that they did) delete bad reviews for a restaurant that places an ad on its site and similarly delete positive reviews given for a restaurant that refuses to place ads on the Yelp site.

Seems that this is a real wake up call for all of us (myself included) who thought that Yelp reviews were not being edited, deleted or possibly even created by Yelp itself.

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Mar 19 2014

NYSLA Says Certain Brunch “Bottomless Glass” Specials Are OK?

bottomless Glass BrunchUnlimited drink specials are illegal in New York (with limited exception for private events).   This Prohibition included “bottomless glass” of champagne brunch specials but it is regularly ignored because most owners are simply not aware of it. However, the prohibition was recently placed into the spotlight and the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) issued the following statement on Feb. 26, 2014 which was supposed to ease and clarify the prohibition:

“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.”   -New York State Liquor Authority

The New York City Hospitality Alliance publicly commended the NYSLA for issuing this statement and for providing such clarity.  However, all the rest of us must have missed the “clarity” that the NYC Hospitality Alliance apparently saw in that statement.

“…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.”  When is the service of alcohol incidental to the event/brunch?  Always?  Sometimes?  When there are pancakes on the menu? Why just brunch?  If the service of alcohol can now be now deemed incidental during brunch, why is it not deemed incidental during lunch or dinner as well?

The reality is that the NYSLA statement provides no clarity whatsoever on the prohibition and in fact causes more confusion because now there appears to be some new exception to the prohibition that applies to certain brunch specials . . .but leaves us all in the dark as to the necessary elements of this exception.  Until there is some actual clarification or specifically stated exception to the prohibition, we still recommend that you do not offer any unlimited drink specials during brunch, lunch, dinner or otherwise.

 

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Jan 27 2014

NY Restaurants and Bars Must Obtain a License to Play Music.

party-disco-restaurantMusic is protected by copyright law, which provides exclusive rights to copyright owners to perform or play their songs. If a restaurant or bar plays music without permission, they are infringing on the copyright, and copyright law allows the owner to recover damages ranging from $750 per violation, to $150,000 if a court decides the infringement was willful.

In Range Road Music, Inc. v. East Coast Foods, Inc., the Court of Appeals found a restaurant violated copyright laws when it played music without a license. The court awarded the Performing Rights Organization (PRO) nearly $200,000 in damages and attorney’s fees. PROs employ investigators that visit businesses to see whether songs are played without a license.

One exception to the rule allows restaurants or bars under 3,750 square feet to play music from a radio, television, or similar household device without a license, provided there are fewer than six speakers (with limits on the placement of speakers), and customers aren’t charged to listen.

Songwriters, composers and music publishers generally join one of three Performing Rights Organizations that license their work to the public: the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and SESAC . The PROs send royalties to the copyright owners.

However, obtaining a license from one PRO doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear — you only have a license for that PRO’s copyright holders. For example, the composer of a song may be represented by ASCAP, while the lyricist may be with SESAC. To avoid this problem, most restaurants and bars choose to purchase a blanket license from each of the PROs, which allows the licensee to play any of the music from each PRO’s library. Blanket licenses can range from the low hundreds to several thousands of dollars per year.  Like any other agreement, these licenses are fully negotiable.   When it comes time to securing one of these PRO licenses, hire an experienced attorney as they will be able to negotiate the best price for your specific establishment.

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