BYOB, or “Bring Your Own Bottle,” where owners of establishments allow their customers to bring alcoholic beverages to their premises to be consumed on site, is NOT PERMITTED in unlicensed businesses in New York State unless the Certificate of Occupancy for the premise is for less than 20 people.
GENERAL RULE: BYOB is illegal in New York.
You MUST have a license or permit to sell/serve beer, wine or liquor to the public. Venues without a license or permit may not allow patrons to “bring their own” alcoholic beverages for consumption. In addition, owners of businesses may not give away alcoholic beverages to their patrons. Those that do are in violation of the NYS Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.
Applicants should be aware that allowing BYOB without a license may jeopardize their chances for approval of their license.
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.”
When applying for a liquor license, the application of the “500 foot rule” often results in the application being rejected. It is imperative that an applicant know whether the rule will apply to their license application and, if it does, to prepare accordingly.
GENERAL RULE: No license for on-premises liquor consumption may be granted for any premise within 500 feet of three or more existing premises licensed and operating with an on-premises liquor license. BUT the State Liquor Authority, in it’s discretion, may still issue the license if they determine that the license would be “in the public interest” after consulting with the local Community Board and holding a public hearing upon notice (a/k/a The 500 Foot Hearing).
Factors the Liquor Authority consider relevant when determining if the license would be “in the public interest” include the type of the proposed establishment (i.e., restaurant or bar), and the number, classes and types of businesses licensed within 500 feet of the proposed premise. They also consider whether the applicant has had prior violations or complaints at other establishments and quality of life issues such as anticipated increased traffic, potential parking problems and noise issues.
The 500 foot hearing is held at the Liquor Authority and individuals and community groups may appear to challenge the granting of a license. A consultation with an experienced liquor license attorney is highly recommended prior to attending this hearing. But in general, wear a suit and be prepared to answer any and all questions regarding your proposed establishment. Bring a copy of your completed liquor license application with you along with all supporting documents filed therewith.
NOTE: The 500 Foot Rule is not applicable if the premises has been continuously licensed on or prior to November 1, 1993 or if the County has a population of less than 20,000.
The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) recently concluded an underage sting operation in New York City where SLA investigators sent underage volunteer decoys into 239 licensed premises in all five New York City boroughs. In total, the decoys were able to purchase alcohol at an astounding 124 establishments. The sting was conducted from March 29 through April 5, 2012.
The outcome of this sting is surprising. More than half of the premises that were raided had violated the law and served alcohol to minors. These violations are accompanied by monetary penalties and worse. For a first offense, a Licensee may be able to get away with paying a fine in the amount of $2,500.00 or so to the SLA to settle the charge . . .but if it is not their first violation, they may be looking at having a costly suspension or revocation hearing at the SLA.
However, the good news is that avoiding these violations are very easy. Licensee’s must (i) train their employees as to what forms of ID are acceptable; (ii) insist that their employees require valid ID from all individuals that appear to be less than the age of 45 (just to safe) and (iii) inform employees that they are subject to job termination should they fail to properly check ID.
MUNICIPAL NOTIFICATION CHANGES ‐ Effective immediately there are major changes in the 30 day advance municipal notification requirements. Some changes affect the entire state, others affect licensees in New York City and still others affect licensees outside of the five boroughs of New York City. Here is a breakdown of the changes:
STATEWIDE: Municipal notification for original on‐premises applications remains in place statewide;
All licensees must now pay the same $128.00 corporate change fee.
OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK CITY: All alteration and license renewal notification requirements for licensees are eliminated outside of the City of New York.
NEW YORK CITY: Substantial corporate changes (80% ownership interest or more) will now require 30 days prior notification to Community Boards for New York City licensees. Alteration and license renewal notification requirements remain in place for New York City licensees with the exception of off‐premises licensees who will no longer need to notify Community Boards of alterations.
In anticipation of their upcoming IPO, Groupon requested a declaratory judgment from the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) regarding whether there was any violation involved with having Groupon offer 50% off of alcoholic beverages at various establishments in New York.
After much deliberation, the NYSLA ruled that the 50% off offer was perfectly legal. The NYSLA stated that since customers received no more than 50% off of the retailers’ drink prices, it did not constitute a violation of the “unlimited drinks offering” prohibition.
Formerly, a convicted felon could not be employed in a New York State Liquor Authority licensed premise with first obtaining a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities. Obtaining that Certificate was often a difficult, expensive and time intensive task. In 2010, the New York State Liquor Authority eased the restriction as follows:
a. Anyone who is convicted of a felony or convicted of:
i. Illegally using, carrying or possessing a pistol or other dangerous weapon;
ii. Making or possessing burglar’s instruments;
iii. Buying or receiving or criminally possessing stolen property;
iv. Unlawful entry of a building;
v. Aiding escape from prison;
vi. Unlawfully possessing or distributing habit forming narcotic drugs;
vii. Jostling (Penal Law §165.25), fraudulent accosting (Penal Law §165.30) or
loitering (Penal Law §240.35);
viii. Vagrancy or prostitution; or
ix. Ownership, operation, possession, custody or control of a still.
b. May work in any of the following licensed premises:
i. Catering establishments (CT);
ii. Hotel (HL);
iii. Restaurant (see “restaurant” definition in §3 of the NY ABC Law);
iv. Club (CL); or
v. Recreational Facility (theatre; concert hall; opera house; bowling establishment;
excursion and sightseeing vessel; facilities for golf, tennis, swimming, skiing or
boating; or accommodation of athletic events, sporting events, expositions and
other similar events or occasions requiring the accommodation of large
gatherings of persons),
c. May not work in the following licensed premises, unless such individual has received and executive pardon removing any civil disabilities, a certificate of good conduct, other relief from disabilities or upon the written approval of the New York State Liquor Authority:
i. Nightclub (OP), if not a “Restaurant”;
ii. Tavern (TL, TW);
iii. Cabaret (CR); or
iv. Bar (OP), if not a “Restaurant”.
Previously, the ABC Law required most license applicants and renewal applicants file notifications via certified mail with their local community boards a minimum of 30 days in advance of filings with the New York State Liquor Authority. Effective January 11, 2011, the types of notice that are considered legally sufficient to satisfy these notice requirements have expanded as follows: overnight delivery or personal service is added to the list of options available for new or renewal applicants for on-premises beer licenses, full on-premises liquor licenses, restaurant-brewer licenses, cabaret licenses, and on-premises wine licenses. In addition, overnight delivery is added to the list of options available for alteration applications [ABCL §99-d(1)].
On November 17, 2010, the Executive Committee of the New York State Liquor Authority authorized the issuance of a new permit to liquor license applicants. Specifically, the New York State Liquor Authority may now issue a 20 Day Temporary Letter allowing the applicant to serve for 20 days provided that they are only missing the following from their liquor license application:
1) Certificate of Authority;
2) Workers’ Compensation or Disability Insurance;
3) Newspaper Affidavit;
4) Photos showing that the applicant is ready to open; and/or
5) Surrender of the current license in effect for the premise, if any.
Presently, this new 20 Day permit policy will remain in effect until February 17, 2011 at which point it will be revisited by the Authority.
The following list, while not all inclusive, will help to familiarize you with the most common violations of the NY ABC Law:
1. Sale to Minor (under 21 years old) – Section 65.1. (It is important to note that the Members of the Authority have directed that any sale to a person under 16 can result in revocation of the license, even
for a first offense.)
2. Sale to Intoxicated Person – Section 65.2.
3. Prohibited Hours of Sale – Sections 105.(a), 105.14 and 106.5.
4. Prohibited Hours of Consumption – Section 106.5.
5. Employment of a Minor – Section 100.2(a) – Bartenders, waitresses, waiters, hostesses and/or any persons who handle and receive payment for alcoholic beverages must be at least 18 years old. Bus persons and dishwashers who handle containers which have held alcoholic beverages must be at least 16 years old and must be directly supervised by someone at least 21 years old. Clerks and cashiers in liquor and/or wine stores or drug stores must be at least 18 years old. Clerks and cashiers who handle and receive payment for alcoholic beverages in grocery stores and convenience stores must be at least 16 years old and must be supervised by someone at least 18 years old.
6. Disorderly Premises (includes Gambling at on premises establishments, Lewd and Indecent conduct, Excessive Noise, Assaults, Narcotics at on premises establishments, Prostitution) – Section 106.6.
7. Gambling at establishments.
8. Narcotics at establishments.
9. Operating outside of your approved method of operation (e.g., operating as a “Bar” even though your application stated your use was going to be a “Restaurant” or use of security guards despite stating otherwise on your application, etc.).
10. Alteration of a licensed premise without approval of the Liquor Authority.
11. Minors in Licensed Establishment (According to Section 260.21 of the Penal Law, persons under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to enter an on premises establishment).