Process for getting a legal opinion on the interpretation of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law from the State Liquor Authority Counsel’s Office

Process for getting a legal opinion on the interpretation of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law from the State Liquor Authority Counsel’s Office

To request a counsel opinion letter concerning the interpretation of Alcoholic Beverage Control Law or policy of the State Liquor Authority, Zone 3 (Buffalo), Counsel, for the states that a letter should be sent to the Authority’s Counsel’s Office that includes:

  1. legal research & case law relating to the issue,
  2. specific information regarding exact method of operation in which the licensee wishes to engage,
  3. an application of the law to the facts setting forth the requestor’s findings and conclusions, and
  4. a clear and concise inquiry as to whether or not the Authority agrees with the application of the law to the facts as set forth by the requestor.

The good news is that an applicant or licensee can get an opinion as to whether what it plans to do is legally compliant in the eyes of the Authority.

The bad news is that asking such a question will require substantial legal work by its attorney, costing several thousand dollars in most cases for the required legal research and memorandum of law detailing the legal research, facts and application of the law to the facts. While I do understand the Authority’s position and must comply with its rules and procedures, I fear that this will be a financial disincentive to licensees’ attempts to understand and efforts to comply with the alcoholic beverage laws and regulations. It also does not address the reality that licensees are regularly given incorrect information by investigators, the Authority’s Call Center or SLA staff members. Many of the procedures and policies of the Authority are not easily accessible so the public cannot research and answer questions easily for him or herself.

Most licensees are small businesses without big budgets or in-house attorneys. It is no secret that New York laws are complex and there are many agencies to deal with to launch and operate a business. To avoid spending several thousand dollars in legal fees, many well intended and honest licensees may feel forced to take the risk because it is too difficult to get answers to understand what is required of them.

Sometimes I agree with businesses who complain that New York is not friendly to small business. The good news is that the new Craft Beverage email for inquiries concerning craft beverage licensees has been very responsive and clear on the Authority’s interpretation and position on issues/inquiries.

                                                  About Tracy Jong

Tracy_JongTracy 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 intellectual property and 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 monthly 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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