“Emergency suspension” of liquor license

A review of 2012 emergency suspension orders of retailer licenses by New York SLA and the first ever wholesaler suspension by New York

In 2012, there were at least 2 things that the State Liquor Authority (SLA) deemed bad enough to issue an emergency suspension order to a retailer:

  1. Repeat underage sales, and
  2. Repeat bar fights on the premises.

Other violations may close you down temporarily or permanently after a lengthy disciplinary proceeding process, but these violations may close you down on summary proceedings. Let’s review some of the 2012 SLA disciplinary matters.

For the first time in history, the SLA suspended a Long Island liquor wholesaler’s license in December 2012. The 30 day suspension translates to two months of lost sales to the suspended New York wholesaler. The wholesaler was also given $120,000 fine. The violations included failure to price post, selling at prices different than those posted, and offering certain products only to some favored retailers. Luckily, the suspended wholesaler was able to sell during the holiday season so impact on sales will be less than they could have potentially suffered if the suspension was in October, November or December. Suspended for January and February, They’ll be back in business in time for the March and April wine sale secondary peak season. I am sure this accounts for at least a 15% loss in annual revenues and probably a loss of a lot of long term accounts that are forced to find a new supplier during January and February.

In January, February and December 2012, the SLA also ordered emergency suspension of the licenses of several bars when an undercover investigation found underage patrons purchasing alcoholic beverages in these Schenectady, Oneonta and Duchess County bars. To add to the licensee’s problems, the licensees were charged with “off the books” employees, unlicensed bouncers (security guards) and other charges. The Duchess County case included criminal arrest of the bar owner and two of the bartenders. The Schenectady case included minors charged with possession of a forged instrument. Prior history for similar violations will certainly not help these licensees during the disciplinary matters.

A similar situation at a Utica liquor store also resulted in an emergency suspension in September 2012. Failure to require ID and selling to underage undercover investigators resulted in immediate closure in light of the prior history of underage sale violations at the liquor store.

A series of bar fights also lead to an emergency suspension of a New York City bar. Violent bars are not tolerated by the SLA because they drain public resources.

These issues should be carefully monitored by bar owners and liquor store owners to avoid penalties so substantial that the business is no longer financially viable. An experienced liquor license attorney can consult with you to develop practices that will minimize potential violations and increase your business’ ability to survive an undercover investigation without resulting charges and disciplinary proceedings.