The process of obtaining a liquor license in New York State is extremely complicated. Every mistake or omission can cause significant delays.

Considering that entrepreneurs must secure some real estate from which they intend to operate the business before submitting an application for liquor license and usually incur other costs and expenses associated with setting up a new or extending already existing business, every delay may be detrimental to the profitability of their venture. Entrepreneurs are strongly advised to obtain a legal consultation from an experienced business attorney who has dealt with New York State Liquor Authority before in order to get full understanding of the process, costs, and requirements.

First, entrepreneurs, with the assistance of the legal counsel, should determine what type of license they need depending on their business plans. There are several types of liquor licenses in New York; each involves its own fees and requirements.

Then, the legal counsel would usually ask questions to determine whether the prospective client is eligible to apply for the license. The minimum requirements are the following:

  • An applicant must be a US citizen or a permanent resident (green card holder).
  • An applicant must be 21 or older.
  • An applicant must not be a convicted felon (unless a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities was obtained).
  • An applicant cannot be a police officer with arresting power.
  • An applicant cannot be a person whose liquor license was 
or a person who has a wholesale liquor license.

The location of the premises where alcohol will be sold also matters. Applicants for a liquor store license, wine store license and on-premises liquor license cannot be within 200 feet of a school, church, synagogue or other place of worship.

Once the proper category of the license is selected and it was determined that a person is eligible to apply, the parties can proceed to the next step – preparation of the application for the liquor license.

An extensive package of documents is assembled and submitted together with the application. NYS Liquor Authority examines it, if something is missing or not clear, it will issue a request for additional information. If all requirements are met and an application with all supporting documentation was properly assembled and filed, the requested liquor license will be issued.

The documents attorneys need to collect from the client in order to prepare the application:

  1. LLC Articles of Organization or Certificate of Incorporation filing receipt if applicant is a legal entity rather than a sole entrepreneur.
  2. Address of the business, phone number, EIN.
  3. NYS Certificate of Authority to Collect Sales Tax.
  4. Investment Records showing the source and availability of the funds to be used for the venture. This includes cash and borrowed funds: savings, checking, stock, business accounts, property, gifts or loans, etc. An applicant can provide bank statement(s) and other relevant financial documentation that show he has sufficient funds for this venture. If any finances have already been expended, the statements to reflect that the applicant had the funds at that time must be submitted. Any and all additional records, documents and/or affidavits that may help to explain the applicant’s financing, background and operation of the business may be useful as well.
  5. a copy of the signed lease for the premises if renting or a copy of the deed if an applicant owns the premises.
  6. a copy of a valid certificate of occupancy for the building.
  7. Names, residence address, social security numbers and date of birth of all members if an applicant is an LLC or corporation with 10 or less members/shareholders: All applicant principals must submit proof of citizenship or permanent residency. All principals must submit a copy of a current photo ID.
  8. Photographs of the interior and exterior of the premises.
  9. Diagrams of the interior and exterior of the premises. (If neither the applicant nor its landlord have or want to prepare the diagrams themselves, the attorneys, who have prepared liquor license applications before, can usually order it from service providers).
  10. A copy of the Worker’s Compensation and Disability Insurance or a Certificate of Attestation of Exemption from NYS Workers' Compensation and/or Disability Benefits Insurance Coverage.
  11. A menu, which is a list of items for sale and prices. All applicants must submit it regardless of the type of license they are applying for. If an applicant does not own the premises, but is renting it, he should obtain the following information from the landlord:
    • If Landlord is a business entity, the names and addresses of each landlord’s principals must be disclosed.
    • Whether any of the Landlord Principals currently or previously were licensed under the ABC Laws (liquor license) ? If yes, please need to obtain a serial number and licensee name.
    • Are any of the Landlord Principals police officers? If yes, need their names.
    • Number of years real property has been owned or legally controlled by the current Landlord.

Attorneys need the above documents and information to get started with the preparation of the application. However, the list is not all-inclusive. An attorney may request additional information or documentation while working on the application depending on the client’s business goals and personal circumstances.

Probably you could already guess that preparation, submission and then review of the application by state authorities are not a quick process. It may take several months until the final license is issued. Obviously, a business cannot sell or serve alcohol until it gets the license. However, it is possible to obtain a one-time use permits to serve alcoholic beverages at an event. An individual entrepreneur or a company can apply for a Temporary Beer & Wine Permit (also referred to as a “TPA”). This permit does not allow serving other liquor. The fee for a TPA is $36 per location/day.

Should you have any questions about the process, legal requirements, or associated costs, please feel free to contact us.