Exempt activities under the 200 foot rule

Applicants for a liquor license often are faced with the 200 foot rule which prohibits any license from being issued for premises within 200 feet of a building used exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or place of worship. If you receive a denial of your application based on the 200 foot rule, there are at several ways to address this situation: (1) Check the way the measurements were obtained. If they were estimated with a GIS program, the true measurements may differ enough to get around the rules, especially since they must be entrance to entrance, not just to the edge of the property. (2) Check the use of the entrances and exits. The way measurements must be taken sometimes leave room for an applicant to show that the problem entrance or exit has no hardware on the exterior and thus is an emergency exit only; not for regular ingress and egress by the public. (3) Look at the dates when the premises were first used for the sale of alcohol and when the church opened. The premises might be grandfathered if the church. (4) Look at the use of the building. Is it exclusively for church purposes? The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Law has a “200 foot rule” however, certain activities may occur at places of worship without jeopardizing the exclusive use (as a church) requirement.

These activities include: the conduct of legally authorized games of bingo or other games of chance held as a means of raising funds for the not-for-profit religious organization which conducts services at the place of worship or for other not-for-profit organizations or groups; use of the building for fund-raising performances by or benefiting the not-for-profit religious organization which conducts services at the place of worship or other not-for-profit organizations or groups; the use of the building by other religious organizations or groups for religious services or other purposes; the conduct of social activities by or for the benefit of the congregants; the use of the building for meetings held by organizations or groups providing bereavement counseling to persons having suffered the loss of a loved one, or providing advice or support for conditions or diseases including, but not limited to, alcoholism, drug addiction, cancer, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease; the use of the building for blood drives, health screenings, health information meetings, yoga classes, exercise classes or other activities intended to promote the health of the congregants or other persons; and use of the building by non‑congregant members of the community for private social functions. A building occupied as a place of worship will not cease to be “exclusively” occupied as a place of worship where the not-for- profit religious organization occupying the place of worship accepts the payment of funds to defray costs related to another party’s use of the building.

This recognizes that churches often serve as community space where fees are charged to use church facilities for no-church sponsored public and private events. Working with an experienced liquor license attorney might help you uncover additional arguments to help you address the rejection.