Liquor License

(Image of Tracy Jong's Logo)

Need Help Applying for a Liquor License?

In New York State, it has become increasingly difficult and more complicated. My office can assist you in successfully transferring an existing liquor license to your new company or obtaining a new liquor license. Mistakes and violations can cause a suspension for 2 years for the premises. Time is money. Delays can negatively affect your bottom line. By virtue of the new rules issued by the New York State Liquor Authority, an application will not be accepted by the Liquor Authority Intake Unit if it does not meet the essential requirements, and does not have the proper documentation. In most cases, it will be mailed right back as rejected for incompleteness. Professional assistance with preparing and filing your application will reduce delays with errors and omissions. We will fully explain all of the procedures including notifying the local community board as well as what is required if an appearance in front of the community board becomes necessary. We will also explain what requirements trigger a 500 foot hearing at the New York State Liquor Authority. If you have a question, feel free to call my office, we will do our best to provide you with the proper answers. If you want to meet at my office, there is no cost or obligation to you to learn how we may be able to assist and expedite your process. Delays affect your bottom line. Professional assistance a worthwhile investment. As of October 1, 2009, attorneys may certify your retail application for the State Liquor Authority (“SLA”) Examiner, expediting the process tremendously. You may be able to get your application in a matter of weeks, not months. (As of October 1, 2009, electronic fingerprinting of all new applicants is required in lieu of the former postcard fingerprints obtained from the local police agency.)

We can assist Restaurants, Bars, Nightclubs, Catering Establishments and Liquor Stores with Incorporation and Business Formation, Liquor License applications, New York State Liquor Authority Violations, Commercial Leasing, Trademark Filings, and the Purchase and Sale of Businesses.

We can provide the answers and assistance that are required to successfully:

  • obtain a new liquor license
  • transfer an existing liquor license to your new company
  • transfer an existing liquor license upon sale of a business
  • seek approval of managers, including obtaining certificates of relief from disability
  • notify the SLA of changes in operation (e.g., hours, days, locations, managers) to amend your application data

We will fully explain all of the procedures. We will explain to our clients what the licensing agency requires and prepare the necessary documents. We will assist you in completing arranging for a bond and fingerprinting. We will assist you in notifying the local community board and properly placing legal notices in designated legal publications. If you desire, we will appear with you if an appearance in front of the community board becomes necessary. We will also explain what requirements trigger a 500 foot hearing at the New York State Liquor Authority. We will also represent you in front of the Liquor Authority Board. We will also advise our clients how to remain in compliance with the relevant rules and laws of the licensing agencies after receiving their license.

Our law firm can provide you with invaluable legal advice and assistance subsequent to your premises receiving summonses from the police department, or violations from the State Liquor Authority or other city and state agencies. We will also strive to prepare you for the future (unannounced and surprise) inspections. You need to be prepared for these surprise inspections. Additional violations could result in a large civil penalty, the loss of a liquor license or even worse - the permanent closure of your premises or business. If you are a landlord, you cannot rent or sell the premises to anyone seeking a liquor license for at least 2 years.

Planning to Apply for a Liquor License

If you plan to apply for a license, be prepared to provide the essential information for the SLA Examiner needs to complete the review and issue your license. This includes details about where you have lived and worked for the past 10 years. It also includes information about the business will be financed. Typically, you will need to supply copies of leases, purchase contracts, loan documents, gift letters/affidavits, 5 months bank statements for an account where money was taken to purchase the business, purchase or rent the location and pay the business expenses. Your sources of funds have to be properly documented from savings, equity loans, gifts from relatives or friends, etc.

If you collect the necessary documents, we will complete the paperwork and file the application for a reasonable fee. For a small extra fee, we can come to your location and prepare the application, take the necessary photos of the premises, prepare the layout diagrams of the interior and exterior of your premises.

Applying for a Liquor License

If you plan to file an application for a liquor license or to transfer an existing license to your business, it is strongly advised that you first due your “due diligence” and review the government records for the location and any current or past license for that location. You will need to determine if the premises are suitable for a bar, restaurant, club, grocery, or what you intend to operate. You will need to clearly review the license history and status to be certain you are not taking on a problem scenario or a license with “baggage.”. We can help you determine if there are any current or existing violations not resolved before the New York State Liquor Authority, or any other Administrative Agency. We can help resolve problems that are discovered.

No On Premises Liquor License will be issued by the New York State Liquor Authority if the premises are located within 200 ft of a school or place of worship unless “grandfathered in” because it was existing prior to the existence of the school or place of worship.

The 500 foot rule only applies to an application for an On Premises Liquor License where the premises are in the vicinity of three or more similar establishments. If your premises are situated in an area of three (3) more On Premises licenses, you will be notified and advised to attend a informal hearing which is conducted by the New York State Liquor Authority. At the hearing, if there are no objections from the local Community Boards or Township, and if no one has filed an objection, the hearing will end, and you will get a formal notification if the application is approved for the issuance of the license.

It is folklore that you can serve a complimentary drink in conjunction with the sale of food. You are not to serve, sell or provide alcohol for consumption on premises without a New York State Liquor License (which must be properly posted on the premises visible to the general public and to all inspectors). 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. 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. Can a customer bring in his or her own liquor/wine/beer into a licensed restaurant or bar? Yes, with the approval of the licensee and as long as the alcohol product is covered under the license in effect and the patron removes the unconsumed alcoholic beverage upon departing the licensed premises.

All applicants for On Premises Liquor License are required to publish in one local and one community newspaper, that you have applied for a license to sell alcohol for on premises consumption. Upon completion of the ad, you are to submit a copy of the ad with an affidavit from each newspaper to the State Liquor Authority. There must also be a 30 day advance notification to the local government BEFORE you are eligible to file your application.

Under what circumstances might your application be denied? These are those most typical rejections:

  • Failure to disclose criminal past – YES, they can and do run a check
  • Failure to disclose proper source of funds or provide acceptable documentation to support your statements in the application and personal questionaire
  • Failure to disclose names or personal questionnaires of officers, directors, managers, lenders or other interested parties
  • Failure to disclose US residency status
  • Incomplete or missing information not provided within ten (10) business days to the State Liquor Authority.

In what instances will criminal convictions or administrative actions by the SLA disqualify my application? Individuals not eligible for a license include:

  • a person convicted of a felony in NYS, including felony DWI.
  • a person convicted of a crime in another state or federal jurisdiction which would translate to a felony conviction if committed in NYS.
  • a person convicted of misdemeanors under sections 230.20 or 230.40 of the NYS Penal Law or 1146 of the former NYS Penal Law.
  • a revoked license will disqualify the licensee for a period of two years; if the revoked licensee was a corporation any officer or director may also be disqualified.

Note: If an executive pardon or a certificate of relief from disabilities is obtained, the convictions are no longer disqualifying in and of themselves, although all convictions may be considered as part of the total merit of the application.

Types of Liquor License

There are different kinds of Liquor Licenses issued by the New York State Liquor Authority. Each liquor license has its own set of rules and requirements. Failure to adhere to the rules, or to meet the requirements, will result in denial of your application.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law limits the ability of the Authority to issue on premises retail licenses when there are existing licensed establishments within 500 feet of the applicant’s location. This has become known as the “500 foot rule”. Applications subject to the 500 foot rule must have a hearing to determine whether it is in the public interest to issue the license. Until recently, the Authority applied the rule to any application where there were at least three existing establishments within 500 feet, no matter what type of establishments they were.

However, as a result of a recent court decision, the Authority may no longer count all of the establishments within 500 feet of the applicant’s location. The 500 foot rule will now apply as follows:

  • If you are applying for a license under Section 64 to operate a restaurant, hotel or catering establishment, the rule will apply if your location is within 500 feet of three or more other establishments which are also licensed under Section 64.
  • If you are applying for a license under Section 64-a to operate a bar, tavern, nightclub or adult entertainment facility, the rule will apply if your location is within 500 feet of three or more other establishments licensed under Section 64-a.
  • If you are applying for a license under Section 64-c to operate a brew pub, the rule will apply if your location is within 500 feet of three or more establishments licensed under Section 64, 64-a, or 64-c.
  • If you are applying for a license under Section 64-d to operate a cabaret, the rule will apply if your location is within 500 feet of three or more establishments licensed under Section 64 or 64-c. [Please note that the rule will also apply if your location is within 500 feet of another cabaret. However, in that situation you are not entitled to a hearing. The application must be disapproved.]

Once the agency has done an investigation and verified that the 500 foot rule applies to your application, the hearing will be scheduled and all parties notified. All other review processes will continue to be performed during this time in order to avoid any additional delays. If you do not dispute that your application is subject to the 500 foot rule and a hearing is required, you can waive the investigation and the matter will be scheduled for a hearing. A 500 Rule Investigation Waiver Request form is available on our website under Retail Forms – Other Applications or Forms, or you can contact one of the zone offices to obtain the form.

Temporary licenses: If the premises you are acquiring is currently operating, and it has a license without violations or proscriptions, you may apply for a ninety (90) day temporary permit which will allow you to operate the premises pending approval of your permanent application. The ninety (90) day temporary permit can only be obtained by you if there is a transfer of ownership, and there are no pending violations or disciplinary matters against the seller with the New York State Liquor Authority. Be aware, however, that the SLA advises that some permanent licenses are issued almost as quickly as the temporary licenses so this may provide only a few weeks of additional operating time for the Applicant’s additional filing fees. If a delay in serving alcohol is economically detrimental to your operations, this may be a good option to get you up and running as quickly as possible To qualify for a temporary permit, the following conditions must be satisfied:

  • There must be an active license in existence at the premises for which you are applying.
  • The permit and $640.00 fee must be filed simultaneously with the Retail License Application.
  • The temporary permit will expire 90 days from the date of issuance.

Minimum Requirements for Eligibility to Hold a License

What are the minimum requirements for eligibility to hold a license?

  • Applicants must be US citizens or have permanent resident alien status. In some cases, citizens of countries with reciprocal trade agreements may apply.
  • Applicants must be 21 or older.
  • Applicants must not be convicted felons (unless they have a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities).
  • Applicants cannot be a police officer with arresting powers.

Avoid violations and disciplinary proceedings

Regardless of the liquor license you possess, whether it has been issued in your name, or in the name of a fictitious corporation, you as the sole proprietor and/or officer have been given a privilege. Regardless of the type of license you possess, it has been issued subject to your compliance with the requirements of the Alcohol Beverage Control Law, and the State Liquor Authority. The SLA will hold you responsible for knowing all provisions and procedures that apply and will not accept “ignorance” as a valid excuse. To preserve your license in good standing, you must adhere to the following:

Should there be a change in the use of the license premises, the license can be subject to immediate cancellation or revocation unless you notify the SLA. When in doubt, call the SLA office or your attorney for guidance. Even seemingly simple changes can put you in noncompliance. You can make changes, as long as you give proper notice and get permission from SLA to do so.

As a general rule, if anything disclosed in your application or personal questionnaire changes, assume you probably must notify the SLA. Examples of things that can affect your license and cause a violation include:

  • Health code violations (if liquor bottles contain "fruit flies," mice in the kitchen, no handwashing notices for employees or a lack of paper towels or soap by the sink)
  • Fire code violations (not posting the proper signs or if the exit signs are not illuminated)
  • illegal activity occurring on the premises even without the owner's knowledge
  • selling wine gift bags and gift baskets
  • Ceasing operations, even temporarily, for more than one week (for example, to do renovations or go on vacation if you are a sole proprietor). You must “park” your license with the SLA by mailing it in and asking it to be held for “safekeeping.”
  • Getting a traffic ticket for a alcohol/drug related offense.
  • Being arrested for a criminal violation listed in the ABC laws.
  • Changing hours of operation. Observe the permissible hours of operation. The hours of operation are regulated by the New York State Liquor Authority, and the local Community Board in your area.
  • Changing employees who are listed as managers on the SLA records.
  • Changing landlords, such as when the building is sold by the owner to someone else.
  • Refinancing debt and getting new lenders or people gifting money to the business (in a financially distressed period, having a friend, spouse or business associate give you a short term loan for example).
  • Changing owners (officers, shareholders and directors) of the business that is the applicant. ( For example, someone gets divorced, dies or is bought out)
  • Changing names of the business or changing business entity form (example going from a “dba” to a corporation or LLC).
  • Renovations in the interior of the premises, especially if it involves entrances/exits and location of the bar. As a licensee, prior to your making an alteration to the license premises, you are required to notify the New York State Liquor Authority, and obtain written consent or approval for the alteration. At establishments with an on-premises license, the sale and consumption of alcohol must be confined to the area that has been licensed by the Authority. The licensee needs to be aware of whether outside areas such as patios, backyards, balconies, deck, etc., were disclosed and approved when the license was issued. Disciplinary actions may be taken against a licensee who allows drinks to be consumed in unlicensed areas. Licensees can file an application with the Authority to add an unlicensed area to the licensed premises.
  • Significant changes to your menu or other aspects of your operations.
  • Leaving someone in charge or giving them authority over corporate management type activities when they are not listed as a manager on SLA records. (Yes, even a spouse or long time employee)
  • Using business money to pay personal expenses (“comingling”).
  • Taking home a bottle of wine or case of beer for personal use.
  • Buying alcohol from a wholesale club like BJ’s or Sam’s Club rather than an approved wholesaler.
  • Failing to properly post your license in the location, visible to everyone and anyone in authority.
  • Failing to properly post warning signs within the premises in a location which completely visible to everyone and anyone in authority.
  • Serving to minors. Adhere to the rules prohibiting the sale of alcohol substance to anyone under the age of twenty one (21). You are required to request proper means of identification. Acceptable valid documents are a New York Drivers License or Military identification. Unacceptable means of identification are Credit Cards, makeshift identification cards, and out-of-state drivers' licenses for which there is no means of determining authenticity.A valid driver's license or non-driver identification card issued by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, the Federal Government, a State Government, Commonwealth, Possession or Territory of the United States or a Provincial Government of Canada; or a valid U.S. passport, or valid passport of any other country; or a valid military ID from the U.S. (Section 65-b.2(b) - ABC Law)
  • Disciplinary Actions by the State Liquor Authority and Alcohol Beverage Control Board.

Disciplinary proceedings take many months to resolve. We strongly recommend you seek professional representation to avoid compromising this significant, and often critical, business asset. In many case, the professional will be able to secure an outcome with an economic value (for example, reduced fines, avoiding closing the business temporarily or permanently or losing the right for the premises to sell alcohol for 24 months) that vastly outweighs any fees you would pay.

Warning Letter: Rarely used except when there is no merit to the alleged violation. The State Liquor Authority will issue a warning to the licensee regarding the consequence for recurrence of the prohibited activity.

Suspension: Your license is removed from the premises by an investigator, notice is posted on the premises informing the general public that your license has been suspended for fifteen (15), thirty (30), or sixty (60) days. During suspension, you are prohibited from selling any form of alcohol substance.

Cancellation: Your privilege has been taken away; you may file a new application within six (6) months to one (1) year, final determination in granting a new license is subject to the Board Members. Cancellation is subject to a severe monetary fine imposed by Members of the Board.

Revocation: Termination of your Liquor License, plus a two (2) year period of proscription issued against the premises. This means that other people cannot obtain a license for the premises for at least this two year period (unless they have a hearing and it is waived). All future applications will be subject to severe scrutiny by the Board Members.

No Contest Plea and payment of a Civil Penalty: Be aware, the fines are substantial. In experienced licensees are surprised to find out fines are more than a mere $250 or $500. The State Liquor Authority may impose or accept as a civil monetary fine the sum of $1,000.00 or more for each offense. If the offense occurs one or more times within eighteen (18) months, the monetary fine will be $6,000.00 or more subject to suspension, cancellation, or revocation of your license with a two (2) year proscription against the premises. If a proscription is issued, you may not be permitted to apply for a new license for a period of two (2) years. The Landlord is notified, and he too is prohibited against renting the premises for a similar establishment for a period of two (2) years. There is no consideration under these conditions.

In many cases, we can offer results-oriented billing. That is, the amount you pay us depends of the results we obtain for you and/or the expediency we are able to obtain on your behalf. Our firm now offers clients the option of value-based fee agreements in lieu of traditional hourly based billing for many services. Ms. Jong recognizes that businesses need to develop project budgets and often make decisions on a cost-benefit analysis. Hourly billing can make that a difficult task when the legal process is not well understood or outcomes are difficult to predict. She offers an alternative to address this need with fee arrangements that provide a fair fixed or blended fee for services rendered, taking into account the client’s perception of the value of services performed, predictability in legal fees and where appropriate, a sharing of the risk.

Contact Information:

Visit our office at:

Tracy Jong Law Firm

2300 Buffalo Road, Building 100A,
Rochester, NY 14624
(585) 247-9170
Fax: (585) 247-9171


Tracy Jong:

To speak to a paralegal, call (585)247-9170 or e-mail