NYC Bottle Club License Law Randomly Enforced

Marrying pints with paints has become a popular pastime in New York City, despite the legal thorns into which some establishments could become ensnared, as a recent article in the New York Daily News highlighted.

Our New York City liquor license attorneys understand that the newspaper sent an inquiry to a local police precinct regarding the practice of encouraging patrons to bring their own booze to consume in a business where they can then paint, make jewelry or even get a pedicure.

The News said it was interested in learning more about what it understood to be rare enforcement of N.Y. ABC. Law 64-b of the New York Code, which governs bottle clubs. Per this law, it is illegal for an establishment with an occupancy of 20 or more people to allow individuals to gather for the purpose of consuming alcoholic beverages – even if those beverages are brought to the premises – unless the establishment has a bottle club liquor license.

There are certain restrictions as to where these establishments may be located. For example, they can’t be on the same street or avenue and within 200 feet of a structure occupied exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or other place of worship. Exceptions are granted when the bottle club establishment existed prior to the school or church.

Exemptions to the NYC bottle club license law are extended to non-profit religious charitable organizations, fraternal organizations or political clubs, so long as they aren’t serving booze during otherwise prohibited hours or in violation of any other part of Section 106 of the city’s ABC law.

But in this case, the police did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment on its enforcement action, or rather, historic lack thereof. Instead, it responded by hours later raiding a number of the establishments where such actions are known to be carried out.

A number of the business owners who were affected by the raids said they weren’t 100 percent clear on the legality of their operations.

The operator of an upscale nail salon advertising a “Girls’ Night Out” pedicure special – complete with free Cosmopolitans – said she had no idea what she was doing was illegal.

Many business owners assumed that because they weren’t serving food, the liquor license laws did not apply. At the very least, they figured that because police hadn’t been cracking down on so many other establishments that had been doing the same thing for years, it must be a gray area of the law.

However, the State Liquor Authority spokesman said there is no such thing. The bottom line is that a business that wants to give away booze or allow people to bring their own needs to have a liquor license.

These kinds of specials are good for business, and we would be dismayed to see them come to an end. It is true that obtaining a liquor license in New York City can be a somewhat arduous process, but it’s certainly not an impossible one, particularly if you acquire the assistance of an experienced liquor license attorney. We can help you prepare for the community board review, including paperwork that will detail your plans, background information and menus. We are familiar with the procedural aspects of these reviews, we can help you anticipate what the community boards will ask and help to present your operation as a bright spot for the cultivation of culture and entertainment in your neighborhood. We can also assist you in obtaining a one-day special events permit from the State Liquor Authority if these events will only be held on occasion.

The Wright Law Firm is a business law firm located in Midtown Manhattan. Call (212) 619-1500 for a confidential consultation.

Additional Resources:

Hipster ‘drink and paint’ event at Painting Lounge shut down in raid by police, May 24, 2013, By Simone Weicheselbaum, The New York Daily News

More Blog Entries:

NYC: New Permit Procedures for Places of Assembly, April 16, 2013, New York City Liquor License Lawyer Blog