Applications subject to the 500’ rule – new convenience store regulations for the City of Rochester

Any establishment seeking a retail on-premises liquor license (not a beer and wine application) is subject to the 500’ rule, which stipulates that a premises cannot be located within 500’ of three or more similarly licensed premises.

Last month, the Rochester City Council unanimously passed new zoning rules that will affect convenience stores in residential areas. Essentially, new stores will not be allowed to open within 500 feet of each other in these areas and will be mandated to sell fresh produce. The law goes into effect in November, but currently operating stores will be grandfathered in and therefore will not have to abide by the new rules.

These changes are a reaction to resident complaints that the stores foster illegal activity, pointing to a significantly higher rate of calls to police and problems with loitering. The New York Association of Convenience Stores is fighting the changes, citing objections felt by the store owners, who aruge that they are being punished for problems they haven’t caused and that the police haven’t been able to control. The Rochester City Council is hoping that these changes will force business owners to invest in the community and promote the health and safety of its residents.

If the premises is subject to the 500’ rule, the SLA can make an exception by determining that it is in the public’s interest to issue the license. ABC Law (provisions of Section 64, 64-a, 64-c and 64-d) requires that the SLA consult with local municipality and conduct a public hearing. In these instances, the assistance of an attorney experienced in SLA proceedings is highly recommended.