Restaurant Law Blog

Monday, August 24, 2015

Restaurant Owners' Options When Diners are Unable to Pay

Is it true that a restaurant owner can make diners pay off their tab by washing dishes?

Unlike many other industries, payment for food service generally works on the “honor system,” meaning patrons are generally not expected to pay until the end of the meal. While this arrangement works the vast majority of the time, there have been incidents in nearly every New York restaurant where a diner has faced the embarrassing situation of being unable to foot the bill. In this scenario, what are a restaurant owner’s legal options to ensure repayment?

Forcing diners to wash dishes in exchange for their meal, though a prevalent old wives’ tale, is likely a labor violation and should be avoided as a settlement tactic. First of all, washing dishes can be a dangerous job, and a restaurant owner could be liable in the event a diner is injured while performing the task. Secondly, there are more civil ways to handle the situation that work to avoid added embarrassment and humiliation for the patron.

If the patron is a regular guest, chances are he or she will be able to come back later to settle the bill. Nonetheless, the restauranteur should ask for identification, such as a drivers’ license in order to record the patron’s name and address. Private business owners are well within their rights to refuse service to a patron who owes money to the house. For this reason, front staff should always be informed of any remaining unpaid bills.

Another way of dealing with this situation is to send an invoice to the individual for the unpaid bill, leaving an option for the diner to include a tip for the server that particular evening. According to several New York City restaurant owners, this option works most of the time and is likely the best possible solution to an uncomfortable, but not uncommon, problem.

If you have any questions about legal compliance for your New York City restaurant establishment, whether about customer relations or other relevant matters, please do not hesitate to contact the DiPasquale Law Group, where you will receive our attention and knowledgeable advice. We can be reached at 646.383.4607.

Monday, August 10, 2015

UPDATE - Popular NYC Brunch Location Loses Its Liquor License

What are some scenarios that could give rise to a suspension or revocation of a liquor license in New York? 

Restaurants, bars and nightclubs expecting to sell alcohol in New York must also be prepared for the bevy of rules and regulations that apply to these establishments – or risk losing out big time.

Take, for instance, the Flatiron District’s Pranna Restaurant, which will undoubtedly face closure following a final ruling by the State Liquor Authority revoking its right to sell alcohol on the premises. Pranna’s ‘Bottomless Brunch’ feature had become such a nuisance in the neighborhood, near-constant complaints were being submitted to the SLA’s Compliance Board. Most notably, residents recalled tales of brunchers urinating on sidewalks, vomiting, engaging in loud and obnoxious monologues and essentially wreaking havoc during an otherwise conservative time of day.

Read more . . .

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.

Read more . . .

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:

Read more . . .

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.
Read more . . .

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.

Read more . . .

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 . . .

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