Restaurant Law Blog

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

NYC Pub Loses Liquor License Over Failing to Notify the State Liquor Authority of its Cuisine Changes

My bar/restaurant is thinking of changing its menu. Are there any special compliance measures we should take? 

In a recent case involving a Lower East Side American pub restaurant, owners were shocked to learn that changes in menu offerings and bar hours could result in a revocation of their liquor license, as well as bring about hefty fines and penalties.

The restaurant, known as the Sixth Ward, was restyled in 2008 as an American/Irish pub-style bistro, offering regular bar fare and a full bar menu. In 2006, when the restaurant first opened, it was designated as a vegetarian-only destination, and reiterated this classification in its application for a liquor license from the New York State Liquor Authority.

However, according to owners, the vegetarian crowd began to thin out, prompting the chef and managers to make a change to the entire menu – adding several meat-based options including cheeseburgers and chicken. Problem is, however, the group failed to alert the SLA as to the changes, resulting in significant punishment and temporary suspension of liquor service privileges.

In March, 2015, an inspector meandered undercover into the club’s bar area – which was supposed to close at midnight according to the license application. From there, he ordered a cheeseburger, despite being under the impression the establishment sold only vegetarian fare. Moreover, the restaurant never disclosed that it intended to play music, and the inspector witnessed bar patrons dancing until 3:50a.m., at which point he left (and the party raged on). 

Shortly thereafter, the Sixth Ward was slapped with a $1,000 fine and had its liquor license indefinitely revoked for failing to inform the SLA of changes to its menu and bar hours. At the hearing, the owners testified they were not aware that menu changes were a mandatory disclosure issue, and the administrative law judge dutifully replied that “[owners’] lack of knowledge that notification of changes in Licensee’s method of operation had to be filed with the Authority cannot excuse the violations”.

If you are concerned about your own establishment’s compliance with liquor licensing laws in New York City, please contact the veteran restaurant and bar attorneys at the DiPasquale Law Group today by calling (646)383-4607.


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