What You Need to Know if You're a Licensed Retailer
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Overview

You as the licensee are responsible for the activities of employees and patrons in all parts of the licensed premises (even if you are not always physically present) to ensure that the business is operating in accordance with the law. 

Your license has been issued either to you individually, or as a principal in a partnership, corporation or limited liability company. You may not allow anyone but the entity named on the license and the principals disclosed to the Authority in the application to use the license. Only the licensed principals can exercise control over or profit from the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol Training Awareness Program

The Alcohol Training Awareness Program focuses on the legal responsibilities of selling alcohol and provides training in practical skills to help licensees and their employees avoid violations, including preventing sales to underage persons. The Authority recommends that all licensees and employees who serve or sell alcoholic beverages take an Alcohol Training Awareness Program. These trainings are not only an effective way to prevent underage sales but, in the event the Authority charges you with a violation, proof that your staff has participated in training may reduce the penalty imposed.

 

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Preventing Sales to Minors

It’s a crime to sell, deliver or give away alcoholic beverages to a person under the age of 21. As the licensee, you are subject to disciplinary action by the Authority whether you or your employee served the minor. It does not matter whether you thought the person was 21, if they lied about their age, or if they appeared to be at least 21 years old.

You are not only responsible for sales made directly to the minor, you are also responsible for “indirect deliveries”, when another person gives an alcoholic beverage to a minor.

The Authority strongly encourages licensees to ask for proof of age. Requiring customers to produce valid photo identification, together with verifying that the person providing you with the identification is the same person shown on the identification, will help you avoid violations. The following forms of identification may be accepted:

  • Valid New York State driver’s license or a valid driver’s license from any other state or Canada;
  • Valid identification issued by the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (non-driver ID card);
  • Valid United States military identification; and
  • Valid passport or visa from the United State government or any other country.

 

College or Sheriff’s Department identification cards are not acceptable as the primary means to determine a customer’s age. However, they can be used in addition to one of the acceptable forms of identification to verify information. You should ask for identification every time, even from a customer that has previously provided you with some proof of age.

When reviewing identification offered by a customer, you or your employees should check for:

  • tampered or fake documents;
  • the date of birth; and
  • whether the person has the same eye color, hair color, height, etc., as set forth in the identification.

 

Additionally, you should take the following steps to help prevent sales to minors:

  • Post “Date Born After” signs near all points of sale or service;
  • Have a written policy on what you expect from employees when making sales;
  • Establish an ongoing training and education program for all employees;
  • Encourage responsible drinking when advertising your establishment;
  • Support your employees when they refuse to make a sale; and
  • Consider purchasing a scanner device to verify that the identifications presented to you are valid.

 

A sale to minor is considered one of the most serious violations of the ABC Law. The Authority and law enforcement agencies throughout the State routinely conduct operations to monitor your compliance with the law. These operations may consist of investigators observing sales made to the public in your establishment or the use of underage agents.

Licensee Obligations

As the licensee, you are responsible for the activities of all employees and patrons in your licensed premises. It is your responsibility yo ensure that your business is operating in accordance with the ABC Law. These are some common issues faced by retailers that could subject you to disciplinary action if you do not meet your responsibilities as a licensee.

 

Disorder

On-premises licensees have an obligation to ensure their establishment does not become disorderly. Disorder includes fights, disturbances, the use or sale of controlled substances, prostitution, lewd and indecent conduct and excessive noise. You must exercise reasonable diligence and provide adequate supervision over the conduct of your premises and your patrons.

The Authority strongly recommends that you contact local law enforcement to respond to any disorderly incidents. The fact that you call for police assistance will not be held against you when the Authority considers whether you exercised reasonable diligence and provided adequate supervision.

 

 

 

Extension of Premises

As a licensee, you are required to confine the service and consumption of alcoholic beverages to the area that is licensed. When you submitted your application, you provided the Authority with a description and diagram of that premises. You cannot use any unlicensed area for the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages. If you want to use an area that is not already part of your licensed premises, you must submit an alteration application and obtain the Authority's approval.

 

Intoxicated Patrons

It is a crime to sell, deliver or give away alcoholic beverages to a person who is visibly intoxicated. This applies to both on-premises and off-premises licenses.

 

Unlimited Drink Specials

As a licensee, you are prohibited from selling, serving, delivering or offering to patrons an unlimited number of drinks during any set period of time for a fixed price. Licensees are also prohibited from creating drink specials which, in the judgment of the Authority, are attempts to circumvent the law. This includes offerings of free drinks, or multiple drinks for free or for the price of a single drink, or for a low initial price followed by a price increment per hour or other period of time.

This does not apply to private functions not opened to the public, such as weddings, banquets, or receptions, or other similar functions or to a package of food and beverages where the service of alcoholic beverages is incidental to the event or function. 

The Authority does allow 2-for-1 specials where the price of a drink is not lower than one-half of the regular price for the same drink.

Food Requirements

If you are licensed as a restaurant, you must have suitable kitchen facilities to prepare and serve a full menu whenever you are open. If you have a hotel license, there must be a restaurant in your building available to your guests, although you do not have to operate the restaurant yourself. If you operate a catering establishment, you must have adequate facilities (at your location) to serve at least 50 people.

If you have another type of on-premises business, such as a tavern, nightclub or lounge, you must have food available for your patrons. You can meet this requirement by providing sandwiches, soups or similar items. Snack foods (chips, pretzels, etc.) are not sufficient to meet this requirement. The food can be fresh, pre-cooked, or frozen, but it must be kept at your licensed premises and available for your patrons. You cannot have patrons order food to be delivered by other businesses.

Inventory Requirements

Grocery stores and drug stores that have an off-premises beer license or an off-premises beer/wine product license are required to maintain a certain inventory of food and household goods that take up at least 50% of the store’s public floor space.

In this instance, food does not include alcoholic beverages or carbonated beverages. At least 10 different food items must be eligible for purchase using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Household items are defined as napkins, facial tissues, toilet tissues, foil wrapping, plastic wrapping, paper towels and disposable plates and utensils. Personal health/hygiene items are defined as non-prescription drugs, hygiene products and toiletries.

Disciplinary Proceedings

Licensees who violate the ABC Law or the Rules of the Authority may be subject to a disciplinary proceeding. These proceedings are based on referrals from other law enforcement agencies or investigations conducted by the Authority’s Enforcement Bureau based on complaints received by industry members, elected officials and members of the public. These referrals and investigations are reviewed by the Authority’s Office of Counsel to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to charge a licensee with a violation.

A disciplinary proceeding starts with the issuance of a notice of pleading that contains the alleged violations. If you are the subject of a disciplinary proceeding, the Authority will mail a copy of the pleading, by certified mail, to your business address. Another copy will be mailed to the primary residential address that you provided in your application. In revocation proceedings, a copy of the pleading is also sent by first class mail to the owner of the licensed property.

Any person who received the notice of the disciplinary proceeding may appear in person, by a duly appointed representative or by an attorney who is a member in good standing with the New York State Bar.

Disciplinary proceedings are resolved by either: an administrative hearing; a “no contest” plea to the charges; or an offer negotiated between the licensee and the Authority prosecutor that must be reviewed by the Members of the Authority. If you receive a pleading, you will be provided with additional information about your rights and the process.

The licensee’s failure to enter a plea on or before the return date is deemed to be a No Contest plea. The charges are deemed sustained and there is no hearing. A licensee’s failure to appear for a hearing, or any adjournment of a hearing, is also deemed a No Contest plea.

If you are found to have committed a violation, the Authority can suspend, cancel or revoke your license. A suspension order suspends the privileges of the license for a period of time (e.g., 2 weeks, 30 days, etc.). A cancellation order terminates the license, while a revocation order terminates the license and prohibits the licensee from holding a license or permit for two years.

The Authority can also impose a fine. For retailers, the maximum fine for each violation is $10,000. A claim can also be made against the surety bond that you filed with your application.

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