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How to Get a Liquor License in New York: An Ultimate Guide

New York State (NYS) requires a liquor license to manufacture or sell alcoholic beverages in the state. Whether you want to open a brewery or a restaurant or sell beer at your corner store, there are hoops you have to jump through to get your business up and running as soon as possible, including the requirements of the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA).

Liquor Licensing Types in NYS

New York has 4 different types of liquor licenses:

  • On-Premise
  • Off-Premise
  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesale

Once you know what type of license you need, there are multiple sub-categories with different licensing requirements and restrictions.

On-Premise Liquor License

This is the license you need if you plan to open a bar or restaurant that will sell on-premises liquor to customers for consumption at the business. Depending on the type of establishment you plan on running, you will need to apply for the proper license. There are over 25 licenses for on-premises consumption, including for hotels, restaurants, clubs, concessions, vessels, and trains. The license is also specific to the type of beverage you plan to sell. For example, you can get a license to sell only beer and wine at your restaurant, not liquor.

Off-Premise Liquor License

This is the license you need if you plan to open a store to sell liquor to customers for them to take home, such as a wine or liquor store. There are eight different off-premises licenses available. These include grocery, drug, wine, and liquor stores, farm markets, and other vendors. With this license, you cannot serve open alcohol for consumption at your store.

Manufacturing Liquor License

This is the license you need if you plan to open a brewery, distillery, or other location where the alcohol will be manufactured. There are 20 different manufacturer licenses for distillers, brewers, cider makers, and mead producers.

Wholesale Liquor License 

Once you know what type of license you need. Multiple sub-categories have different licensing requirements and restrictions.

How to Get a Liquor License in New York?

how to get a liquor license

The NYS liquor license application process can be time-consuming and complicated, so experienced New York business attorneys can make great resources.

The steps for licensure to sell alcohol are as follows:

1. Determine If You Are Eligible to Get an NYS Liquor License

The New York Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (ABC Law) requires applicants to be:

  • U.S. citizens or permanent residents;
  • Over 21 years of age;
  • Not a convicted felon unless a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities is held;
  • Not a police officer with arresting powers.

According to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, foreign nationals may hold an NYS liquor license if their home country is engaged in a special commerce treaty or friendship with the U.S. They must carry an E-1 or E-2 Visa to apply for a liquor license in New York.

2. Understand the Three Main Liquor Laws 

In addition to the initial requirements, the establishment that will sell the liquor must also comply with three liquor laws:

  • Tiered House Law: Applicants may not hold an on-premise license if they have an interest, direct or indirect, in any liquor manufacturing or wholesale business.
  • 200-Foot Law: On-premise liquor sales are not permitted within 200 feet of a place of worship or school (beer licenses and a wine license are exempt).
  • 500-Foot Law: If your establishment is within 500 feet of three other holders of on-premise liquor licenses, you are ineligible for one yourself (applicable in cities with a population over 20,000).

3. Send the 30-Day Notice to the Local Community Board and Attend the Board Meeting

how to get a liquor license in new york state

Before filing your application with the New York State Liquor Authority, you must file a 30-day notice with your local Community Board.

Once filed, a board hearing will be held where you will make a short presentation of your application, answering questions regarding the following:

  • Business methods, menus, and hours;
  • Whether you will have sidewalk dining options;
  • Whether your establishment will have security;
  • How many bars are on the premises;
  • Type of music played (live or recorded).

Members of the community have the opportunity to raise concerns about your application, so you must be prepared to respond. Afterward, you will be asked to sign a document stipulating certain obligations to the community. Then, the board will issue a non-binding recommendation approving or declining your application, presented to the New York State Liquor Authority.

4. Gather Necessary Documents

The New York State Liquor Authority requires the following documentation:

  • Completed application and filing receipt
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Checks for all required fees
  • $1,000 penal bond
  • Photo ID
  • Pictures and a diagram of the proposed premises
  • Investment records
  • Contract of sale for the premises, OR
  • Lease, management agreement, or deed for the premises
  • Your menu
  • Copy of the 30-day Community Board notification and proof of delivery
  • Waiver request if there is only one restroom
  • Holding Corp Stipulation, if another legal entity owns the applying entity
  • Notice of Appearance.

5. File Your Liquor License Application with the New York State Liquor Authority

After the conclusion of your board hearing, you may file your application for a liquor license with the New York State Liquor Authority using its application wizard.

The smallest typo or mistake can lead to significant processing delays, and if your disclosures aren’t thorough or complete, your application could be denied. An experienced NY business attorney can guide you through the application process and ensure it’s correct and complete before submission.

6. Attend a 500-Foot Hearing and/or an SLA Meeting, if Needed

You may also be notified by the SLA and required to complete either of these steps:

  • Attend a 500-foot hearing to make a statement of public interest based on predetermined criteria regarding why your application should be approved;
  • Appear at an SLA Board meeting to present your application and make a case for its approval.

After these meetings, the SLA may ask for additional documentation required for your Conditional Letter of Approval and then inform you whether you will receive a liquor license.

How Long Does It Take to Obtain a Liquor License in New York?

how much is a liquor license in ny

Most applications take between 22 and 26 weeks for the Liquor Authority to review, but omissions, inconsistencies, or mistakes in your liquor license application can result in significant delays or a denial.

While waiting for approval, all manufacturers and most liquor stores can apply for temporary operating or manufacturing permits, allowing them to open and sell alcoholic beverages. The temporary license approval process only takes about 30 days

Cost of Liquor License in New York State

A NY liquor license cost depends on the type of license you need and the county you plan to operate in. Most restaurants hold an OP 252, an on-premise liquor license permitting them to serve liquor, beer, wine, and cider. It’s valid for two years and costs between $1,792 to $4,352, plus a $200 filing fee.

Off-premise liquor license costs are usually less expensive than an on-premise license. If your establishment is more seasonal, such as a location in Niagara Falls that caters to tourists, you may also opt for a seasonal liquor license if you don’t plan to be open year-round.

Each New York county sets liquor license fees for the license and any application, filing, and processing fees.

Get Help with Your Liquor License

If you need help with your NY liquor license application, contact an experienced New York licensing attorney today! 

What to Do to Keep Your Liquor License in NY

Once you obtain your New York liquor license, you will still need to comply with all licensing and operational requirements for the type of establishment and license you have. New York requires license holders to maintain the following compliance requirements:

1. Post All Required Signage

Your business must have these three signs posted in plainly visible locations:

  • Its original license certificate, in a glass frame;
  • A pregnancy and alcohol warning sign;
  • A "no sale to minors and intoxicated persons" sign.

Failure to have the appropriate signage posted could end up jeopardizing your license.

2. Sell Only During Permitted Operating Hours

Each New York State county sets its on-premise consumption hours, which must be clearly posted. You must also ensure that you close down your business for the day promptly when your county says you must. For this reason, it's important to be aware of your local ordinances.

3. Comply with the “Unlimited Drink Offering” Statute

Promotions with unlimited drinks, such as “bottomless pitchers” or “all-you-can-drink specials” are prohibited in New York. Make sure that your menus and marketing avoid these phrases and similar customer appeals.

Furthermore, no drinks may be sold for less than half their original price, including Happy Hour discounts.

4. Inform the Liquor Authority About Changes to Your Licensure Details

You must file a corporate change application with the SLA and receive approval to make any of the following changes to the ownership of your business:

  • Removing an investor or owner;
  • Appointing or removing officers, members, or directors of your board;
  • Changing shares of ownership.

The only exceptions are if your business is an LLC that currently has more than ten shareholders, the ownership change affects less than 10% of the holdings, and no member’s total holdings increase to 10% or more of the LLC.

Apart from business structure changes, you may also need to advise the appropriate regulatory agencies if you plan to renovate or otherwise alter your premises in a manner that reduces visibility. These changes must be approved using an alteration application and be accepted before beginning renovations.

If you plan to make minor changes to your business, such as correcting the name or address in your license certificate, or if the name of the principal(s) changes due to a marriage or divorce, you may complete those changes through an endorsement application.

5. Self-Report a Violation

The SLA takes non-compliance seriously. If you detect any violations of New York's ABC law, you should report the incident to the SLA immediately. Submitting the form is good-faith compliance and reaffirms your commitment to working within the strictures of the SLA requirements. Self-reporting any violations of state and county liquor laws may result in reduced fines for the violation. It can also prevent the chance of a long, costly investigation into other possible violations which could impact your business.

6. Renew Your License

If you are approved for an off-premise liquor license, it is valid for three years before renewal. On-premise licenses for beer only are good for three years, but other on-premise licenses must be renewed every two years. Seasonal licenses must be renewed annually. Renewal periods for manufacturers and wholesalers vary.

Get a NY Liquor License with Lawyer for Business

If you need assistance with the New York State liquor license application, we can provide guidance throughout the complex process to ensure that your application is complete and correct. Contact Lawyer For Business today to speak with a NY liquor license lawyer about how to get a liquor license in New York state.

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Buffalo Business Lawyer Serving New York State
Andrea A. Willis, Esq. is an award-winning attorney that delivers top-notch service to her clients. She has a diverse background representing business clients from many sectors and sizes.

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FAQ

May a New York liquor license be sold, transferred, or assigned to another owner?

NY liquor licenses may not be transferred, but current license holders can sell them to a business that already holds one. Still, the sale requirements are fairly strict. An experienced business attorney can help draft the sale agreement so that both parties are compliant with New York laws.

Is it possible to obtain a temporary permit to sell alcohol while the application is pending?

Some businesses may hold a temporary license while waiting for approval of their permanent one, but only outside New York City. The only exception involves existing businesses with valid liquor licenses being purchased.

Does the liquor license expire once the licensee’s establishment ceases to exist?

If their business ceases operation, the owner must notify the SLA and return their license certificate. Any prepaid license fees may then be refunded to the quitting licensee.

Is BYOB allowed in New York while the application is pending?

No, the practice of Bring Your Own Bottle is not permitted in any facilities with pending liquor license applications in New York State.