The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the liquor license of the Old Timers Inn at 2018 County Route 1 in Oswego. The business 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.
The SLA received reports from the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office (OCS) that the Old Timers Inn sold alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption to undercover officers on April 16th and 24th, and on May 5th, in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order, despite prior multiple warnings from Sheriffs.
After warning the owner on March 17, 2020, and following numerous complaints, OCS visited the bar on April 3rd and observed an individual consuming alcohol at the bar. While the owner claimed the individual was painting and being compensated with beer, officers warned the owner all on premises service is prohibited by the EO. OSC officers followed up with surveillance of the premises on April 9th and 10th, observing more than thirty patrons parking behind the premises and entering and exiting through a back door.
On April 16th, an OSC officer conducting an undercover operation parked in front of the bar, where he was instructed by an employee to park in the rear and enter through the backdoor. Once inside the officer ordered and was served a beer, with the bartender instructing the officer not to tell anyone as on-premises sales were illegal. When the officer asked whether the bar was being painted, the bartender admitted that this was simply a cover story should police discover the bar was continuing operations.
On April 19th during a check of the property, an OSC officer observed two individuals sitting at the bar, and again issued a warning to the owner. On April 24th, OSC conducted a second undercover operation, and on May 5th a third such operation; an undercover sheriff was again illegally served inside the premises each time.
“While our state has made tremendous progress in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, we need continued cooperation from our licensees,” said SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley. “While the overwhelming majority of businesses are adhering to these essential protocols, there should be no doubt the SLA will not hesitate to shut down any bar found violating these lifesaving measures.”
On May 6, 2020, the SLA charged Old Timers Inn with several violations, including for failure to comply with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders concerning COVID-19 restaurant restrictions and for its failure to supervise the licensed premises.
The emergency suspension was ordered by Chairman Vincent Bradley, Commissioner Lily Fan, and Commissioner Greeley Ford at a 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.