CASE STUDY – Not in my Neighborhood!

A restaurateur invested $1.5 Million dollars to buy and renovate a mixed use property in a trendy and wealthy historic neighborhood in Albany, New York.  The building had residential apartments on the upper levels and a restaurant on the street level.  After buying the building, he learned that the local neighborhood associations were aggressively opposing local restaurants serving alcoholic beverages.  He also learned that these groups were frequent opposers at planning and zoning board meetings, exerting such pressure that they essentially dictated the look and feel of the building exteriors down to paint colors, signs and other ornamental details.  Now they were working to control the name of the business, the hours it was open and the style of the restaurant.

Having fought these activists at several proceedings and lost at some, the restaurateur feared opposition at his 500 foot hearing could result in denial of his liquor license application.  He reached out to Tracy Jong to assist with his pending application.  A 500 foot statement was prepared and submitted at the hearing to establish why the Applicant should be issued an on-premises retail liquor license without restrictions other than the 2 PM closing time in the zoning variance that came with the property.  The statement argued that the Applicant was the owner of the building rather than a mere tenant and that the restaurant would be owner-operated.  There was incentive to keep the property value high by operating a legally compliant and responsible business.

The statement also established that the Applicant had a solid management plan for the premises:  the owners were TIPS certified, there were I.D. scanners and video surveillance on the premises, and licensed security guards would be used for late night hours between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM.  The statement also reminded the Liquor Authority that the reputation and history of a prior licensee cannot be used to impute that similar activity will happen at the new licensee’s premises if no connection can be made between the owners, managers or employees of both establishments.  It was shown that there was no connection between the old establishment and Applicant’s new business, and also to stress the difference in target clients and management styles.  The statement also included details of the Applicant’s prior restaurant operations and liquor licenses, stressing full compliance and lack of violations for a period greater than five years.

Letters of support from other community organizations and neighborhood associations were submitted to exemplify Applicant’s actual business operations rather than the speculation and conjecture of the “NIMBY” faction about how the new owner might operate its business.  At the hearing, the Applicant was able to address concerns of the community neighborhood associations and to open an ongoing dialogue between the two parties.

The liquor license was granted, preserving the Applicant’s investment in the property.