Alcoholic Beverage Licensees Should Take Note of the Several Multi-Agency Investigations Undercover Sting Operations Targeting Widespread Underage Drinking

For licensees who get caught, the result is likely to be an emergency suspension order. The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) suspended the license of Barley Legal Inc., doing business as “Bootleggers” at 200 Broadway in Troy, New York. The suspension was ordered by Members of the SLA, Chairman Vincent Bradley and Commissioner Kevin Kim at a special meeting of the Full Board. During a suspension, no alcohol can be served or consumed on the premises

Following complaints of underage drinking at Bootleggers, on Thursday, December 3rd investigators from the SLA, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the Troy Police Department (TPD) conducted a compliance inspection at the premises. SLA undercover investigators entered the premises shortly before 11:00 p.m., and after determining a large percentage of the approximately 225 patrons appeared to be underage and purchasing alcohol, called in the multi-agency team consisting of the SLA, DMV, and TPD.

The investigation found that 175 patrons were under the age of 21. On December 8, 2015, the SLA charged the owner with 54 violations, including 53 sales to minors and 36 direct sales observed by SLA investigators and 17 sworn statements obtained from underage patrons. Additionally the owner was charged with paying employees off the books. DMV investigators confiscated 91 counterfeit licenses and arrested 93 individuals for allegedly possessing fraudulent identification documents or presenting another person’s driver’s license. In addition, two bartenders were arrested by the Troy Police Department for unlawfully dealing with a minor.

The SLA repeatedly warns liquor license holders that “Cracking down on underage sales is a priority for the State Liquor Authority.” “Bar owners that deliberately break the law should understand they are putting their license and their livelihood in jeopardy.”

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 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.

            Tracy_JongAbout Tracy Jong

Tracy Jong has been an attorney for more than 20 years,      representing restaurants, bars, and craft beverage manufacturers in a wide array of legal matters. She is also a licensed patent attorney.

Her book Everything You Need To Know About Obtaining and Maintaining a New York Retail Liquor License: The Definitive Guide to Navigating the State Liquor Authority will be available next month on as a softcover and Kindle e-book.

Her legal column is available in The Equipped Brewer, a publication giving business advice, trends, and vendor reviews to help craft breweries, cideries, distilleries and wineries build brands and succeed financially.

She also maintains a website and blog with practical information on legal and business issues affecting the industry. Follow her, sign up for her free firm app or monthly newsletter.

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