The Catering Industry Sees Changes in New York Liquor Laws

The Catering Industry Sees Changes in New York Liquor Laws

The catering industry has seen some changes at the New York State Liquor Authority this year. The first change is the creation of a new Off-Premises Catering License that allows caterers with a kitchen adequate for preparing food for at least 50 people, but not the capacity to seat 50 people, to apply for an off-premises catering license allowing them to serve liquor in addition to beer, wine, and cider at the location of the event at private functions, occasions, or events. Under certain circumstances, an applicant can begin serving in as little as 2 months after application. Applicants may not cater for themselves and hold an event open to the general public. Rather, they may only be hired as a vendor by another person or entity hosting its own event. The license also requires the licensee to apply for and obtain a catering permit for each off-site event.

Any function/event must be private (not open to the public). It should be invitation/RSVP in advance with a guest list or ticket purchase in advance.  Along with other requirements, the applicant must  certain minimum food offerings, in addition to alcoholic beverages at the event. The application for a Catering Permit must be received by the Liquor Authority a minimum of 15 business days prior to the event. Applicants must submit proof that the premises can be used for the intended event with the number of attendees stated in the application. For some venues with a history of complaints, the Authority may require the submission of security plan and/or support from the municipality.

The SLA also established new policies about catering permits and the ability to acquire one at a location that is already licensed or has a pending application if the premises operator submits written consent for the caterer to do the event. An example would be where a winery  wanted to permit a caterer to provide food and beverages for a wedding on its premises. This is common where a special event will require a higher level of food than the premises operator has facilities to provide. It is also an option in a challenging labor market when a premises operator doesn’t have adequate staffing for a large event.  When the event is held at a facility that already has a liquor license, the SLA has made clear that the caterer can only serve the types of alcohol permitted under the permanent license at the premises. A wine and beer licensee cannot allow a caterer to serve full liquor at its premises, even if the caterer has a full liquor license.

Unlike temporary beer and wine permits, there is no limit on the number of catering permits that can be issued for a location. The Authority does, however, monitor the number of catering permits being issued for a specific location and will deny a permit after a certain number have been issued for the same location during a 6-calendar month period.

This is a significant change in policy and now makes it difficult for event venues that rely on caterers for food and beverage. Event venues like wedding barns will now need to obtain their own license if they have more than 12 events in 6 months. This can be challenging if there are limited electric and water facilities and it can be expensive to install the necessary kitchen facilities. While taverns have minimal food requirements, they must be open to the public. Venues that are only open for events need a catering establishment license and a kitchen able to produce food for at least 50 people. More than a minimal food preparation area will be required along with commercial dishwashing equipment.

The year has brought some changes and industry members should review their practices and identify if changes are needed for 2024 operations. If your business involves catering, our team can guide you through the best license and permit options and keep you compliant under the new rules. Give us a call.


The content has been prepared for informational purposes only; it should not be construed as legal advice, does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship, and readers should not act upon it without seeking professional counsel.