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Requirements for holding on to your liquor license

It's a complicated process for a New York business to obtain a liquor license. And once a business obtains the license, it can sometimes be difficult to retain it.

The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) put out a handbook specifically addressing various questions entrepreneurs may have concerning liquor licenses. The handbook describes the types of liquor licenses a business can obtain, the types of alcoholic beverages allowable to sell, and the various conditions for keeping the license.

Even after obtaining a license, there are a number of actions that require approval by the SLA. For example, you may need to take action if you plan to:

  • Make alternations to the business premises. You may need to notify the SLA of minor alterations and file an application for substantial alterations.
  • Add or remove a corporate officer of director, partner, or managing member of an LLC. This will require SLA approval.
  • Change your methods of operation (hours of operation, having dancing on the premises, etc.). You must apply to the SLA pertaining to such changes.
  • Change the names of owners or of the corporation. This would require the filing of an endorsement application.
  • Change the location of the business. This will also require SLA approval.

This handbook records a number of other obligations you will have as a licensee. This includes directions concerning labeling of beer taps, storage of alcoholic beverages, and the maintaining of adequate books and records. It describes restrictions pertaining to consumption of alcohol both on and off of the premises. And it stresses the need to keep order on the premises as well.

Those holding liquor licenses may face discipline for a wide variety of infractions including serving liquor to intoxicated individuals and to minor, and refusal to allow inspections. The very last paragraph of the handbook warns that the SLA "can suspend, cancel or revoke your license." It can also impose fines of up to $10,000 for every violation.

For most bar and restaurant owners, a liquor license is a key component to operating a profitable business. Incurring fines, or facing a suspension of your license can often make it impossible to run a successful bar or restaurant. Attorneys who understand this area of law can help businesses obtain licenses. They can also assist in keeping the license in place through business guidance and representation at administrative hearings.

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