The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the liquor license of AB Brewing LLC, doing business as “Water Street Brewing Co.” at 168 Water Street in Binghamton. The brewery was found operating in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order, requiring bars and restaurants to cease on-premises service of food and alcoholic beverages to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
On April 22nd while responding to suspicious potential theft or burglary activity near the Water Street Brewing Co., Binghamton Police Department (BPD) officers discovered the door to the premises unlocked at 11:30 p.m., well after the 10 p.m. curfew ordered by Binghamton’s Mayor. Upon entering, they heard music and observed five individuals drinking at the bar. Satisfied that no burglary was taking place, the officers left. Shortly thereafter BPD headquarters received a call from an individual identifying himself as the owner of the Water Street Brewing Co., asking why the police had entered, and stating police are not welcome at the establishment.
Following the call and a report of the incident to supervisors, BPD officers returned at around 12 midnight and observed the five individuals still inside the bar through the windows. Officers were met outside by the owner, who claimed the individuals inside were employees. As a condition of holding a liquor license, all licensees are legally required to allow inspections by police officials, as local law enforcement are tasked with ensuring compliance with the Alcoholic Beverage Control law. But when the officers asked to enter to inspect the premises and verify the owner’s story, she refused, a clear violation of the Alcoholic Beverage Control law. Officers were also met by a hostile male, later identified as the head brewer, who blocked the entrance of the building while another patron shouted profanities at officers.
On April 23rd, officers issued an appearance ticket to the owner for violating the Governor’s EO and another to the head brewer for obstruction of governmental administration for interfering with a police investigation.
“By ignoring the Governor’s EO and unlawfully refusing to allow police to inspect the premises, this licensee has demonstrated a total disregard for the law and more troubling, placed the health, safety and lives of others at risk,” said SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley. “The SLA will not hesitate to take immediate actions to protect the public against licensees operating in clear defiance of the Governor’s lifesaving directives.”
On May 6, 2020, the SLA charged the Water Street Brewing Co. with several violations including failure to comply with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders concerning COVID-19 restaurant restrictions, failure to supervise the licensed premises and failure to permit an inspection.
The emergency suspension was ordered by Chairman Vincent Bradley, Commissioner Lily Fan, and Commissioner Greeley Ford at a special meeting of the Full Board, conducted by videotaped conference call under social distancing guidelines, on May 7, 2020.
The State Administrative Procedure Act authorizes a State agency to summarily suspend a license when the agency finds that public health, safety, or welfare requires emergency action. When the SLA summarily suspends a license, it also serves a Notice of Pleading alleging one or more disciplinary violations. In invoking a summary suspension, the SLA has deemed the violation to be sufficiently serious upon initial review to warrant an immediate suspension. The SLA’s decision to summarily suspend a license is not a final determination on the merits of the case. The licensee is entitled to an expedited administrative law hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. An order of summary suspension remains in effect until such time as it is modified by the SLA or a reviewing Court.