Am I a Restaurant in the Eyes of the Liquor Authority?

Sometimes it is not easy to determine if your establishment is a restaurant or tavern. A typical pizzeria menu consists of pizza, subs, salads and wings as well as assorted fried snack foods. These food offerings may fall under “sandwiches, salads and snack items” and not be deemed restaurant food. In this situation, a business owner would need to file as a tavern or bar. This has implications on the price of the liquor license and the applicable zoning and land use laws in the municipality. The SLA licensing unit has explained that “Multiple factors are taken into consideration by the license board when determining if an establishment meets the criteria of a restaurant as defined under section 3 of the Alcohol Beverage Control Laws:

27.  “Restaurant”  shall mean a place which is regularly and in a bona fide manner used and kept open for the serving of meals  to  guests  for compensation   and  which  has  suitable  kitchen  facilities  connected therewith, containing conveniences for cooking an assortment  of  foods, which  may be required for ordinary meals, the kitchen of which must, at all times, be in charge of a chef with the necessary help, and kept in a sanitary condition with the proper amount of refrigeration  for  keeping of food on said premises and must comply with all the regulations of the local  department  of  health. Restaurant shall include a motion picture theatre, movie theatre or other venue that shows  motion  pictures  that meet  the  definitions  of  restaurant  and meals, and all seating is at tables where meals are served. “Meals” shall mean the  usual  assortment of  foods  commonly  ordered at various hours of the day; the service of such food and victuals only as sandwiches or salads shall not be  deemed a  compliance  with  this  requirement. “Guests” shall mean persons who, during the hours when meals are regularly  served  therein,  come to a restaurant  for  the purpose of obtaining, and actually order and obtain at such time, in good faith, a meal therein. Nothing in this subdivision contained,  however, shall be construed to require that any food be sold or purchased with any beverage.

Pizzerias are often the hardest establishments to distinguish between restaurants and taverns/bars since they often have very similar menus.  In these cases it is often the inclusion of “Guests” within the definition that is used to make the determination.  Based upon diagrams, photos, and the application as a whole, the License Board must determine if the primary focus of the establishment is the service of meals to its patrons.  I pizzeria with no wait staff, 3 tables, and a concentration on pizza deliveries is not a restaurant.  A pizzeria with 20 tables, 5 waiters, and a salad bar is probably a legitimate restaurant.  The license board will use the law, precedent, and common sense to make a determination on the establishments that fall in the middle.”