Restaurant Law Blog

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Luxury NYC Eatery Facing Labor Law Violations Over Gratuity Faux Pas

I was charged a 20% ‘service fee’ for a private dining event in New York City. Is this type of fee permissible under New York law? 

Beginning in July, 2013, the New York Attorney General’s Office began to examine the operating structure of the luxury restaurant Per Se, located on Columbus Avenue, New York, New York. According to the factual allegations, the restaurant was attaching a significant “service fee” to the final bill for private dining services amounting to 20% of the entire check. On the service agreement, the service fee was not explicitly described, and most patrons believed it to be a fee included to ensure proper gratuity was paid to the wait staff scheduled to work the event. In reality, however, the 20% fee – which was presumably sizable considering the $310.00-per-plate prix fixe menu – was used for daily operational costs of the restaurant, and was in no way paid to the wait staff for any private event scheduled by the restaurant.


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Friday, July 10, 2015

Obama Care - Are Restaurants Now Required to Provide and Pay for Their Employees’ Health Insurance?

I have been getting many calls from clients asking whether their restaurant (or restaurant group) needs to provide (and pay for) health insurance for their employees.  Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one.

Beginning this year, companies with 50 full-time equivalent employees (“FTE”) must provide health insurance to at-least 70% of their employees.  In 2016, at-least 95% of all employees must be covered starting in 2016.  If your initial reaction was “I don’t have 50 full-time employees” don’t get too comfortable just yet.  Lets look at the facts:



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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

NYC Council Passes Legislation Preventing Potential Employers From Inquiring Into Candidates’ Criminal Background


As a restaurant owner, what are the limits regarding requesting applicants’ personal information? 

As a restaurant business owner, employee turnaround can be one of the most frustrating aspects of running the enterprise. Moreover, the ever-changing legislation pertaining to the restaurant and alcohol service industries can be overwhelming for even the most experienced owner or manager. Fortunately, a restaurant law attorney can help you overcome the legal quagmire of the food service industry, including the finer nuances of employment and anti-discrimination laws.

In June, 2015, the New York City Council followed the lead of nearly 100 other jurisdictions by banning the inclusion of criminal history consideration in the employment process. Under the Read more . . .


Friday, June 26, 2015

Hotel & Conference Center Loses Liquor License Privileges Following Near-Fatal Parking Lot Brawl


Can a bartender or server be held liable in New York for overserving patrons, resulting in injury or death? 

New York laws and regulations are particularly stringent in protecting its citizens from the deadly effects of alcohol. From the initial licensing process, to the Dram Shop Act, there are a number of ways in which a bartender, restaurant, or other for-profit establishment can run into hot water when implementing alcohol service. Fortunately, working with an established and experienced New York restaurant and bar lawyer can help businesses protect themselves and remain aware of the evolving New York laws applicable to the issue.

New York Establishment Loses Liquor License Following Fight

In May, 2015, a Newburgh, New York restaurant and conference center found itself in the aftermath of an alcohol-fueled parking lot scuffle that not only resulted in several arrests, but led to the indefinite suspension of its privilege to serve alcohol to its guests. According to reports, police responded to several disturbance calls at the Read more . . .


Friday, June 12, 2015

Two Cinema Chains Seek to Serve Alcohol in NYC Theaters


Is it legal to drink alcohol in a movie theater in New York City? 

Traditionally speaking, cinematic cocktails were reserved for the actors on screen (think: “shaken, not stirred”) and moviegoers were limited to the overpriced soft drink selections available adjacent to the box office. Over the past several years, cinema outfits in several states have reported great success in combining the theatrical experience with wine and spirits – prompting local New York entrepreneurs to push for a similar allowance.

In Brooklyn’s Nighthawk Theaters, guests are permitted to order drinks directly from servers who discreetly serve the entire theater during the showing of the latest thought-provoking indie film – despite a decades-long ban on alcohol in the cinemaplex. How did this theater get around the prohibition? After aggressive lobbying attempts by both interested groups and the owner himself, the New York General Assembly opted to lighten the mood a little and allow for cocktail service, so long as dinner was also being served in the theater as well. Moreover, patrons were required to leave their seats and procure a drink from a designated bar area – making it all the more difficult to follow a delicately laid-out plot twist.
Read more . . .


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Brooklyn Community Board Alleged to be Engaging in Questionable Liquor Licensing Practices


Is the public invited to attend liquor license approval procedures?

In certain jurisdictions within the state of New York, a smaller “Community Board” is notified prior to the State Liquor Control Authority in the event an entity wishes to apply for a liquor license. Under the regulations, a Community Board must be notified at least 30 days prior to the filing of an application for a license, and proof of this notification must accompany the application for licensure, which is submitted directly to the SLCA.

While the Community Board is not permitted to approve or deny a liquor license, its role is generally limited to discussing the applicant’s intent, the impact the license could have on the surrounding neighborhood, and whether an issuance of the license is in the community’s best interest. At that point, the Board issues a written opinion to the SLCA, which then makes its own independent decision using the Board’s submission as a factor.

Confusion at Bushwick Community Board

Under state regulations, the public at large is welcome to attend Community Board meetings in all five boroughs, and may even offer testimony upon request.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

NYC Restaurants, Bars & Nightclubs Are Frequent Targets of ADA Lawsuits

How is the ADA related to restaurants and bars in New York City?

New York City’s age and architectural quirkiness are two of the reasons we all love it. Unfortunately, the aging nooks and crannies that give our city so much character also make it a challenging place for disabled people to navigate. Though most restaurants, bars, and nightclubs work hard to make their businesses welcoming to all patrons, fully complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is often quite difficult.



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Monday, June 8, 2015

Food Poisoning Lawsuits a Growing Threat to New York Restaurants


How to handle a potential food poisoning claim?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates that 1 in 6 Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year.
Read more . . .


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.
Read more . . .


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

7 Commonly Overlooked Restaurant Compliance Issues

I am considering opening a restaurant in Manhattan. What are some compliance issues I should consider?

Owning a successful restaurant in New York City is tough, especially given the stiff competition and crabby critics. However, one area that need not be a headache is city and state compliance, The administrative regulations that apply to bars and restaurants are lengthy and detailed. If you are considering opening a restaurant in New York City, a restaurant and bar lawyer can help you better understand some of the most common pitfalls in regulatory compliance, including:



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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Community Group Battles Bars, Opposes Liquor Licenses


Can a block association stop a restaurant or bar from getting a liquor license?

Would-be restaurant and bar owners in New York may find that gaining approval of the State Liquor Authority (SLA) is harder than usual for establishments on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. A group known as the LES Dwellers has made it its mission to stop new nightspots from opening in "Hell Square," a nickname the group gave a nine-block area saturated with bars and restaurants.

The LES Dwellers object to the hordes of young people loitering outside of clubs, urinating, vomiting and sometimes literally falling down drunk. The crowds, they complain, make the streets impassable.
Read more . . .


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