The SLA has warned that businesses found violating this or any EO or SLA Guidelines are breaking the law and face serious consequences, including having their license suspended or permanently revoked, with fines up to $10,000 per violation
After yesterday's great announcement that the City is significantly expanding outdoor dining for restaurants and bars to help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic, the State issued a separate Executive Order ("EO") that makes liquor licensed establishments responsible for ensuring compliance with open container and social distancing violations within 100 feet from their premise. This new policy creates significant legal, practical and safety concerns for small business owners.
The State Liquor Authority ("SLA") has warned that businesses found violating this or any EO or SLA Guidelines are breaking the law and face serious consequences, including having their license suspended or permanently revoked, with fines up to $10,000 per violation. This policy will deepen the economic crisis already facing small businesses.
The SLA says, "you can and should remind your patrons that they can also be fined for open containers and violating social distancing protocols, and inform them that if they fail to comply, you will have to stop serving."
While businesses must be responsible for behavior that occurs on the premise they control, they should not be responsible for the behavior of people on public property within 100 feet of their establishment.
The policy poses major challenges and risks to small businesses in the City of New York:
- 100 feet from an establishment in NYC often means across the street, or down the block past multiple other businesses and residences
- Asking workers to supervise and ensure compliance with various laws on public property can create altercations, fights and puts workers in a dangerous position
Governor Cuomo has shown great leadership throughout this crisis and we will work with his administration to help New York City recover, but this EO poses a significant threat to our small businesses, jobs, recovery and public safety. We are committed to working with the Governor's administration to ensure liquor license establishments are responsible for controlling their own premises, but this EO is counterproductive and harmful.
We hope to have this policy modified in a sensible way and will bring you updates. However, to protect your business, liquor license establishments may consider stopping selling “take out” alcohol beverages in the interim, so not to subject themselves to $10,000 fines, suspension or revocation of their alcohol license, and/or potential conflict for themselves and their employees. If you decide to sell “take out” alcohol, staff should inform customers and put up signs telling them that they cannot linger in front of your business and that it is illegal to consume alcohol on the sidewalk. “Take out don't hang out.” You may refuse to serve anybody a second drink who you see is consuming alcohol in the street. We expect to see more enforcement this weekend and want our industry to be prepared with best practices as not to jeopardize their business, especially the weekend before Phase 2 outdoor dining begins. We understand the incredibly difficult situation you are in and are here to inform and support you during these trying times.