When to Surrender Liquor Licenses

On May 28, 2014, a former bookkeeper of Tres Amici Inc., doing business as “La Bella Vita,” a restaurant in Ozone Park, Queens, was arrested for forging a New York State liquor license. Investigators from the New York State Liquor Authority’s enforcement bureau learned that La Bella Vita’s liquor license had been altered to show an expiration date of September 30, 2014. The liquor license expired in September 2012. The restaurant’s former employee was charged with Forgery in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, and Falsification of Business Records, all felonies.

Clients often told me they misplaced their liquor licenses and posted a copy on the wall. Sometimes a Liquor Licensee even hands the license to his landlord when vacating the premises for a break in some rent arrears owed. The landlord then uses it to entice a new tenant to rent the vacated premises. It is incumbent on the licensee to know when to surrender its liquor license. Failing to surrender liquor licenses can impact a restauranteur’s chances of getting a license later.

This recent arrest demonstrates why it is a serious matter when a liquor licensee misplaces or abandons his license certificate. Licensees are required to file a police report under the penalty of perjury and immediately report the loss of the license certificate to the New York State Liquor Authority. Failure to surrender liquor licenses that are no longer in use can understandably result in SLA disciplinary proceedings. Unaccounted-for License Certificates in the hands of the wrong person are a severe threat to the New York State Liquor Authority’s mandate to regulate the sale of alcohol.

If you are closing your restaurant and unsure what your best options are regarding surrendering your liquor license, call the Wright Law Firm at (212) 619-1500 for advice.

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