Restaurant Law Blog

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 . . .


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Changes Proposed to Process of Confirming Employee Immigration Status


Why Can’t the Employee Screening Process Be Simplified?

A National Restaurant Association (NRA) representative told members of Congress that the increasing number of local and state employment verification laws and regulations have complicated the screening process for potential employees and exposed restaurant owners to increased legal liability. NRA senior vice president of labor and workforce policy, Angelo Amador, spoke at a February hearing of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee of Immigration and Border Security, saying that the Legal Workforce Act, which the association supports, should preempt local laws and create a more streamlined system for verifying job candidates’ immigration status.

The proposed law would change the existing Immigration and Nationality Act to make mandatory and permanent the use of the federal electronic employment eligibility verification system, E-Verify. Amador testified:
“In the current system, employers are boxed in by federal regulations that, on one side, require them to conduct the I-9 (employment verification) process on every person they hire and, on the other side, limit their ability to question the validity of authorization and identity documents used during that process…Out of this frustration, and the frustration caused by the federal government’s inability to move forward on the issue, many states and localities have responded with a patchwork of employment verification laws.
Read more . . .


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Changes to Immigration Policy Might Affect the Restaurant Industry


Are my employees affected by the President's executive actions on immigration?

Immigration is a hot button political issue. Despite varying views from political parties and people around the country, the reality is that much of the restaurant industry would cease to function without immigrant labor.

Recent executive action by President Obama expanded some immigration programs.
Read more . . .


Friday, January 30, 2015

Recommendations for Insuring Your Restaurant

What Insurance Coverage Does a Restaurant Need?

There is tremendous potential liability involved when operating a restaurant.  Liability varies  depending on a number of factors.  Some of these factors include how large your business is, the number of people you employ, the number of customers you serve, whether you serve alcohol and whether you own the property, among other things. Having the right insurance and sufficient coverage can help you avoid major problems for your restaurant.



Read more . . .


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Arbitration Clause in Restaurant Case

What is an Arbitration Clause? It’s the Fine Print You Need to Understand.

A restaurant owner may sign any number of contracts in order to keep the doors open, a roof overhead and obtain supplies that are the lifeblood of the business. If the contract you are signing contains a forced or mandatory arbitration clause, and you fail to read the contract closely and fully understand its meaning, you could lose out on a number of legal rights without knowing it. One of those rights is the ability to go to court to protect your interests in the case that the contract is breached or the other party breaks the law and causes you harm.



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Friday, December 26, 2014

Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be Bad

What are ‘Interlocking Interests’?

One aspect of obtaining or renewing a liquor license is the consideration of any liquor related businesses you have an interest in. Earlier this year this issue came up involving Mario Batali and the Bastianich family.

The New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) looks at an applicant’s “interlocking interests” with other liquor related businesses when a person or entity is seeking to obtain or renew a liquor license. Applicants are required to disclose any interest, whether it’s direct or indirect, in any premises currently licensed by the NYSLA and/or any business that manufactures alcoholic beverages or transports or sells such beverages at wholesale. The second step has been interpreted broadly by the NYSLA, so any interest in such a business, anywhere, brings up these concerns.


Read more . . .


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NYC Automatic Gratuity Lawsuit Dismissed


If you have ever been to a restaurant with a large group of people, you are probably familiar with the concept of automatic gratuity.  Automatic gratuity is added to the bill so that the customer tips the staff a predetermined amount as opposed to at his or her own discretion.
Read more . . .


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Recreational Marijuana Use Law Will Be Pushed Next Year

In 2014, the State of New York legalized the use of medical marijuana.  The possession and private use of minor amounts of the substance has been decriminalized in the state since 1977. Even so, tens of thousands of arrests are made each year in New York City for what is characterized as public use of the drug.  Now, legislators are seeking to put an end to that.

Democratic Senator Liz Krueger is committed to pushing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in early 2015.  The bill was introduced last year, rejected and has since been amended.  If passes, it would allow marijuana dispensaries regulated by the State Liquor Authority to be launched in New York.  The marijuana would be taxed and individuals would be permitted to possess two ounces and six plants for personal use only. 



Read more . . .


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Brooklyn Bar Challenges Cabaret License Law

In 1926, New York City enacted the Cabaret Law.  This law is meant to regulate nightlife activities in bars, restaurants and other establishments.  The legislation has undergone many challenges and has been amended since, but it still not a popular law.  Even Michael Bloomberg tried to change the law during his term as Mayor.  In a 1988 case, the portion of the law prohibiting live music was found to be unconstitutional.  While the portion of the law prohibiting dancing has been challenged, it still stands.  Now the main effect of the law is essentially to prohibit dancing in any establishment without a City issued cabaret license.


Read more . . .


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Restaurant Workers Plagued With Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual propositions, gestures and language and is a problem in almost every industry.  The restaurant industry is particularly susceptible to these types of problems.  This industry employs a large number of people, many of which are paid at or below minimum wage.  Tipped workers are often paid a fraction of minimum wage as tips are supposed to make up the rest of their salary.  Although many state minimum wage laws dictate payment above these levels, Federal minimum wage for untipped workers is $7.25 while for tipped workers it is $2.13.

There has been a push at the Federal and state level to raise the wages of tipped restaurant workers either by paying them the same as untipped workers or raising the minimum wage altogether. A new study, put out by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United and called "The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry", has provided further inspiration for these legislative changes.  The study, done this year, involved almost 700 restaurant workers from 39 states and shows that sexual harassment in the restaurant industry is occurring at a shocking rate. Many of the workers were from states where there was a gap in the minimum wage between tipped and untipped workers. 


Read more . . .


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wage and Hour Lawsuit Brought Against Famous New York City Restaurant

Wage and hour issues are common in the restaurant business.  With the complexity of the wage and overtime laws and spotty enforcement, many restaurant owners do not even know they are committing a violation.  There has been an explosion of wage and hour stories covered by news outlets in recent years.  Due to the enhanced awareness of wage and hour laws, there has been an increase in labor and employment lawsuits focusing on these issues, especially by those in the restaurant business.  An example is a recently filed suit against a famous upscale New York City restaurant.

Le Cirque restaurant caters to royalty, politicians and celebrities of every caliber.  With sky-high prices and white glove service, allegations of cheating employees out of wages may come as a surprise to some.  Former employee, Elvis Pena, claims he worked in various positions at Le Cirque including runner, bus boy and waiter and that during this time, he was not paid minimum wage.  Although he worked well over 40 hours a week, Pena claims that the restaurant did not pay him overtime wages.  He also asserts that he was forced to pool his tips with other employees and share these tips with captains, who are considered management, in violation of state and Federal labor laws.



Read more . . .


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