Restaurant Law Blog

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Choosing a Location for your Restaurant or Bar


There are many factors to consider when deciding where to lease space for a restaurant or bar- including the high cost of rent, the size of the space, and the accessibility of the space/location within a busy city.  Included in this consideration should be how evaluating any obstacles you might encounter in obtaining your liquor license, including the following: 

1. The Community Board.Almost every neighborhood in NYC has a local community board which serves as an advisory group and can wield a lot of power over your bar or restaurant.Currently there are 59 community districts in NYC: twelve in Manhattan, twelve in the Bronx, eighteen in Brooklyn, fourteen in Queens, and three in Staten Island.The Community Boards are typically active in everything from zoning to budgeting and they essentially represent the interest of the residents in their district.The Community Boards can also have a big impact on whether or not your liquor license will be approved and, if so, what stipulations they might require your establishment to adhere to.Community Boards in very saturated neighborhoods, such as the West Village and Lower East Side, tend to be much tougher with their review of liquor license applications and can require you, as a condition for approval, to agree to early closing times, soundproofing, limitations on private events, limitations on the types of music you can play, etc.When applying for a liquor license, prior to submitting your application to the State Liquor Authority, you will often have to complete a Community Board application and appear before the Board to answer questions regarding your proposed establishment, including your prior experience in the industry, your proposed method of operation, your plan for soundproofing and crowd control, etc.If there is opposition from neighbors, who may not want an additional restaurant/bar in the area, perhaps because they are concerned about noise or additional congestion, the Community Board may be even tougher in their review.When deciding on a location you should consider which Community Board you will be applying to, assess how many other licensed locations are in the area, and consider factors such as the hours of operation you may be requesting and whether that Community Board is likely to approve such hours.While the Community Boards often do not have significant authority over beer and wine licenses, they can have a huge impact on your application for a full liquor license, particularly if you are in an area that is subject to the 500 Foot Rule.

2. The 500 Foot Rule.The 500 Foot Rule is another factor that should be considered when choosing a location for your restaurant or bar.Under this Rule, no more than three on-premises liquor licenses will be granted within 500 feet of each other unless the Applicant falls under the public interest exception.This Rule does not apply to beer and wine applications, nor does it apply to any premises that has been continuously licensed since November 1, 1993.When the SLA evaluates whether the license would be in “the public interest” they will consider such factors as the applicant’s history with the SLA, the impact your establishment may have on the community, whether there is community opposition to your application, the number and types of existing businesses in the neighborhood, and whether your establishment will provide the neighborhood with a concept or benefit not currently offered by another business.Applications which trigger the 500 Foot Rule are required to submit a 500 Foot Statement and Questionnaire, detailing why their license would be in the “public interest,” and applicants, particularly in situations where the Community Board has denied the application or where there is community opposition to your establishment, can be required to attend a 500 Foot Hearing at the SLA.

3. The 200 Foot Rule.Another important consideration is the 200 Foot Rule which applies to any establishment where liquor will be sold.Once again, this Rule does not apply to beer and wine applications, however, it does apply to any establishment where liquor or wine will be sold for off-premises consumption.Under the 200 Foot Rule, the SLA will not issue a license to any establishment that is on the same street and within 200 feet of any building that is used exclusively as a school, synagogue, church, or place of worship.There are no exceptions to this Rule and it is important that, if you plan to seek a full liquor license, you insure that your establishment is not subject to this prohibition.When measuring the distance, you would measure from the primary entrance of the school/church and to the primary entrance of your establishment.The Rule is only triggered if your establishment is on the same side of the street as the school/church, however, it does not need to be on the same block.If the school/church is on a corner, the Rule would apply to any establishment on both streets, regardless of where the actual entrance may be.While the law requires that the building be used “exclusively” as a school/church, some use may be considered incidental to its primary use, such as events, social activities, treatment groups, or health classes.

These are just a few of the many considerations that should factor into your decision when choosing a location for your establishment.  If you have any questions about whether a particular location could present obstacles for obtaining a liquor license, please call DiPasquale & Summers LLP for a consultation. 

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