The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the liquor license of Matt’s Place LLC, at 1235 County Route 16 in Beaver Dams. The business was found operating in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order, which requires bars and restaurants to cease on-premises service of food and alcoholic beverages to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
On May 7th, following complaints the bar was serving inside the establishment, an SLA Beverage Control Investigator visited the premises. The BCI initially made observations outside the business, noting people entering and exiting and all but one without takeout orders.
The SLA Investigator entered the premises and observed eight to ten patrons seated at the bar consuming bottled, canned and draft beers. The Investigator disclosed his identity to the owner, who was behind the bar, and informed him that he was violating the Governor’s Executive Order.
The owner initially claimed he was only serving patrons waiting for takeout. When informed that doing so was still a violation, the owner grew increasingly antagonistic, stated that following the EO would not allow him to make money, and made it clear that he considered the EO to be unenforceable.
On May 11, 2020, the SLA charged the Matt’s Place with violations for failing to comply with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders concerning COVID-19 restaurant restrictions and for failing to supervise the licensed premises.
“Holding a liquor license is a privilege that comes with responsibilities, none more important than ensuring your actions do not jeopardize the health and safety of your community,” said SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley. “The Governor’s Executive Orders were put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and the SLA will not hesitate to take emergency action against bars found in violation of these lifesaving directives.”
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 a digitally recorded video conference call under social distancing guidelines, on May 13, 2020. The Full Board found that it could have no confidence that this licensee would obey the EO going forward.
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.