If you are opening a restaurant in the state of New York -- and you plan to serve alcoholic beverages -- that it's important that you're aware of the liquor laws that govern the sale and distribution of alcohol in this state. New York's liquor laws are not nearly as restrictive as those in some states, but they do impact what you can and cannot do as a restaurant owner. Here's a look at four laws, in particular, that you'll need to follow.
You must apply for a liquor license.
To serve alcohol in your restaurant, you need to apply for a liquor license. There is a fee involved, and sometimes it takes a month or two for your application to be processed. So plan ahead and apply before you open the restaurant, or otherwise you'll be forced to operate without serving alcohol for a few weeks. Only citizens, permanent residents, or valid visa holders who are 21 and older can apply for a liquor license. If you have ever been convicted of a felony, your application cannot be approved. To learn more about the legal side, contact services such as Liquor Authority License Consulting.
Different counties have different closing hours.
In some states, the closing hours for bars are regulated state-wide. However, New York's law allows each county to set its own "closing time." It's typical for counties in New York to set closing time at 2:00 am, but there are exceptions. Erie County, for example, has a closing time of 4:00 am, which has contributed to the vibrant eating and drinking culture in Buffalo.
Servers must be at least 18 years old.
If you plan on hiring younger serving staff members, be aware of this rule in New York. To serve alcohol, a server or bartender must be 18 years of age. Many restaurant owners prefer that their bartenders are over 21 so that if they take the occasional drink behind the bar, it is not illegal. However, this is a matter of preference -- the state only requires them to be 18.
Happy hour discounts cannot be more than half-off.
In New York, you are forbidden from offering "all you can drink' deals—such as if you were to have patrons pay $20 and drink all they want for two hours. Happy hour discounts of more than half off the original price of the drinks is seen as a way of circumventing this rule. So, when you set your happy hour special rates, remember that a 2 for 1 deal is the best you can offer your customers.