Expanding or Altering Your Brewery Premises During COVID

November 13th, 2020 • by Jennifer Tsyn
Jennifer Tsyn

Jennifer Tsyn

Jennifer Tsyn is a member of the Bond Schoeneck & King law firm, and works out of the firm’s Albany office. Jen represents businesses and individuals in a variety of business law matters, with a focus on liquor licensing issues.

As all breweries know, changes to your licensed premises generally need to be approved by the Liquor Authority.  The Authority considers your initial application for a license to be a “snapshot in time” – and if you want to make changes later, the changes generally need to be reported and/or approved. If you are going to make a “substantial” alteration (which includes any enlargement of the premises, exterior changes, or change in the size or location of a bar) you must get the changes approved by the Liquor Authority before you make them.

However, due to COVID-19, many breweries have sought to expand into outside spaces. The Authority has issued guidance to address this.  The current guidance expires on November 3, but is likely to be extended.

You should review your original liquor license application and the diagrams you submitted and see how and if you described any outdoor use. 

If your licensed premises doesn’t cover your outdoor space, the current guidance allows you to use any outdoor, open air space for service if:

  • It is contiguous to your licensed premises
  • You control the space
  • It is covered by your deed, lease, a management agreement, or it is covered by a municipal sidewalk café permit
  • The Authority did not specifically limit your outdoor service at the time the license was granted

Instead of submitting an Alterations Application, you can instead email temporaryalterations [at] sla [dot] ny [dot] gov the following:

  • An updated diagram
  • Your license number (this must be in the subject line of the email)
  • A statement explaining the expansion

You can move any currently licensed point of sale to the outdoor area but you must show that in the diagram you submit to the Authority. You cannot, however, add an “extra” point of sale without submitting an Additional Bar application.

If your municipality will let you use municipal owned lands that are beside (but not immediately adjacent to) your licensed premises, such as sidewalks or streets, the municipality can submit to the Liquor Authority a Municipality  Form.  However, you cannot move a point of sale onto municipal property, even if the municipality is willing to allow that.

You should remember that, even if patrons are outside, they must only consume alcohol while seated.  Different parties must be at least 6 feet apart and are limited to 10 people.

In addition, the Authority has indicated that you cannot offer dancing or bar games (such as corn hole) to patrons, even outside.  You can only offer on-premises live music if your license certificate allows it, or at least doesn’t prohibit it.  Music must be incidental and:

  • Cannot be advertised
  • Cannot be ticketed
  • Cannot allow for dancing
  • Should not be the “draw” itself

If you want to continue to use the outside space after the guidance period ends (we do not yet know when that will be), you will need to submit an Alterations Application.

Failure to timely notify the Authority can result in disciplinary charges for illegal extension of premises.