Getting A Liquor Permit (Part II)

Hillel Goldman

As we began to review in my last column, although it may not appear to be a daunting task, the liquor permit application process is a difficult one. The application requires extensive information about the applicant, its owners, and it must be answered with the proper wording. Failure to provide the requested information in the proper and complete form subjects the applicant to extensive delays in receiving its liquor permit.

Applicants must also be aware that certain things will make the application process take longer. For example, the application asks whether the applicant wants to serve liquor in an outdoor patio. Since one person reviews all patio applications for the entire state, the approval of a restaurant liquor permit application seeking a patio permit will take longer. If the patio permit application is submitted during the spring or summer, it may take even longer since these are the times when most restaurants and bars that have patio capability apply. Timing obviously matters as well.

An applicant’s failure to provide all requested documentation will also slow the liquor permit application process. The Liquor Control Commission provides a checklist of all items that must be submitted prior to its granting its approval. Be sure that you submit all required information. This includes a sketch of the proposed premises, pictures (indoor and outside shots, also be sure that the pictures meet the strict size requirements and list the applicant’s name on the back), and a proposed menu and a list of equipment (for restaurants).

Applicants must also provide information about who will own and operate the business. If the business will be owned by an entity, then entity formation documents and a certificate of existence (good standing) must be submitted. The applicant must provide the ownership interest of each of its owners along with corresponding biographical information. The biographical information includes a criminal record section where all federal and state convictions and pending charges must be disclosed along with the date the incident occurred and the disposition of the case. An applicant who received a speeding ticket in 1985 is required to disclose the ticket and provide the date it occurred and the disposition. Needless to say, finding this information can be quite time consuming.

The process does not end when you submit your application. Upon receiving the application, the Liquor Control Commission will send an applicant a placard that tells the applicant that the placard must be affixed to the applicant’s window, a 4’ x 6’ sign disclosing the application must be posted, and a legal notice must be posted and a legal notice must be placed in the applicant’s local newspaper twice. Failure to follow these directions to the letter will result in the applicant having to re-placard. This again slows down the process. Thus, it is imperative that you follow Liquor Control’s directions carefully. When the applicant receives its placard from the Liquor Control Commission, it should immediately send a copy of it to its lawyer to make sure everything goes smoothly within the required timetable.

If the applicant does not submit a proper certificate of newspaper publication after placarding within a year of the Commission’s receipt of its application, the application will be voided and a new application must be submitted.

In order to keep client legal fees down, the lawyer should prepare a checklist of things that the applicant can do. I usually call my checklist “client homework assignments”. As soon as the first set of tasks is completed, I provide the next set. This keeps the application process moving forward. The most frustrating thing from the lawyer’s perspective is the client who on the one hand wants to keep legal fees low, but on the other hand, requests that all leg work be done by the lawyer (Can you order the sign? Can you place the newspaper legal notice? Can you find someone to take the pictures?). This was a disaster waiting to happen.

For these reasons, it is important that when applying for a liquor permit, you work with professionals who have experience with this difficult application process so that they can assist you in navigating this very tricky road.