For most restaurant and bar owners in New York, one of the most serious and dangerous charges that can be made against you is that you have violated the state's liquor laws. If you are accused of a liquor law violation, your ability to remain open for business is at stake. Consulting with an experienced restaurant and bar lawyer before responding to a violation can help reduce the damage a violation can cause to your business if it is not handled properly.
If you are accused of a violation, the New York State Liquor Authority will issue a Notice of Pleading which will contain the formal charges against you and will specify when the violation occurred and the exact nature of the alleged infraction.
The most commonly alleged violations include: (a) sale of alcohol to a minor, (b) sale of alcohol to an intoxicated person, (c) maintaining a disorderly premises, (d) sale of alcohol during prohibited hours, (e) gambling, and (f) illegal employment of a minor.
Once you have received your Notice of Pleading, you have three options for resolving the problem:
1. Enter a plea of No Contest: This basically means admitting to the facts alleged, and accepting the fact that what occurred was in fact a violation of the liquor laws. You are permitted to explain any facts and circumstances which you believe should be taken into account to reduce the penalty which will be imposed by the State Liquor Authority.
2. Enter a Conditional Plea: This lets you negotiate for a limited penalty. If the State Liquor Authority wants to impose a penalty higher than the one contained in the conditional plea, you can take back your offer and go forward with a hearing.
3. Enter a plea of Not Guilty: If you deny the charges, you will get a hearing in front of a state Administrative Law Judge where you will be allowed to present evidence and call witnesses on your behalf. If you lose, you will be found guilty of the violation. When that happens, the penalties can include any one of the following:
• Revocation - termination of your liquor license along with a two year ban on reapplying for a new liquor license.
• Cancellation - termination of your liquor license. No ban on the re-issuance of liquor license within two years.
• Suspension - prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages for a designated period.
• Civil penalty - monetary fine.
• Bond Claim - a claim made against your surety bond.
• Proscription - prohibits the issuance of a liquor license to the licensee or any person seeking to operate at the licensed premises for a period of two years. Requires revocation of the licensee's liquor license.
• Summary Suspension - under the State Administrative Procedure Act, a State agency is authorized to summarily suspend a liquor license when the agency finds that public health, safety, or welfare imperatively requires emergency action.
For more information on liquor law violations or to discuss a specific violation issued against you or your establishment, please call or email me.