Restaurant Law Blog

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Primer on the "200 Foot Rule" and the "500 Foot Rule" and How They Affect Your Liquor License Application

What is the “200 Foot Rule”?

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law prohibits liquor licenses from being issued if the location of the establishment is within 200 feet of a building used exclusively as a school or place of worship on the same street. If the establishment or place of worship is on a corner lot, the building is considered to be on both streets. In that instance, you must measure the distance from your main entrance door to the nearest door at the place of worship/school on your street that is routinely used by patrons, students, or the general public.

How do you determine if a building is used “primarily” as a school or place of worship?

In order for the 200 foot rule to apply, the courts have adopted a test that looks at whether the building is used exclusively as a school/place of worship. For example, if a building contains a place of worship and residential apartments, the 200 foot rule would not apply. If, however, the building was used as a place of worship, but also held private social functions for the benefit of its congregants, the 200 foot rule would still apply because the social functions are viewed as incidental to the building’s main use as a place of worship.

How do you accurately measure the distance between the two establishments?

The measurement must be taken in a straight line from the center of the nearest entrance of the school or place of worship to the center of the nearest entrance of the establishment. “Entrance” means a regularly used entrance and does not include emergency exits or maintenance access, nor does it include an entrance used primarily by employees or staff.

The 200 foot rule does not apply to:

  • Establishments in operation since December 5, 1933
  • If the location was licensed before the school or place of worship existed
  • Theaters operated by a not-for-profit organization

What is the “500 Foot Rule”?

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law contains restrictions on the approval of certain on-premises liquor licenses if the location is within a 500 foot radius of three or more other establishments with on premises full liquor licenses (liquor, wine and beer). This restriction only applies in areas with a population of 20,000 or more.

Public Interest Exception

If the location is subject to the 500 foot rule, the license cannot be issued unless the State Liquor Authority determines that it is in the “public interest” to issue the license. In order to determine if the license is in the public interest, the Authority will consult with the municipality or community board and conduct a hearing to determine whether the public interest would be served by issuing the license. At the hearing, the municipality or community board will generally consider the following factors:

  • Whether the applicant has obtained all other necessary governmental licenses and permits
  • The impact on the existing noise level of the area
  • The history of violations and reported criminal activity at the premises
  • The number and types of other licensed premises in the area

If you have any questions about your liquor license application or your community board hearing, contact us for a free consultation.


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