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Everyone has heard at least one horror story about a liquor license applicant and the New York State Liquor Authority's long application lead times and multiple application rejections. The Authority heard the complaints too, and responded to its licensees by enacting new processes and programs to eliminate duplication, delays and business down time.
Commencing October 1, 2009, the New York Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, in collaboration with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Service, implemented a requirement that all fingerprints required for liquor licensing applications must now be electronic fingerprinting via approved vendor, L-1 Enrollment Services (http://www.L1enrollment.com). Electronic fingerprinting through LiveScan systems will be available in multiple locations around the State of New York and will provide fingerprint results within 48 hours, which will significantly improve turnaround time to the issuance of new licenses.
In terms of fees, the State Liquor Authority license and filing fees will remain the same in relation to fingerprinting. However a fee increase of $19.25 for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's results and a surcharge of $11.50 for electronic printing will increase the fee from $75.00, which was originally payable to the Authority, to $105.75 payable to the L-1 Enrolment Services at the time of fingerprinting. After eliminating the cost of an additional $25.00 for each paper fingerprint card previously due to the office or agency taking the fingerprints, the net increase due from the applicant is minor, and with other state licensing agencies coming online in the future, the savings and efficiency will be apparent to small business owners.
In order to accelerate the review time for retail liquor licenses, the New York State Liquor Authority has implemented a Self Certification Program. The program allows attorneys to certify that statements and documents provided in retail applications are true and accurate and that the application meets all statutory requirements. The Division of Licensing will rely on the information certified by the attorney, eliminating the need to review each document submitted, thereby allowing for a more timely review of applications.
While the Self Certification Program allows for faster processing time, the Certification of Retail Application for Liquor License Form requires attorneys to attest to an on-site visit. The on-site visit will force attorneys to be proactive on behalf of their clients, allowing them to troubleshoot problems before the application is submitted (i.e.: proximity to churches and schools, decks/outside dining areas, etc.), but the increased legal fees for this service may deter some business owners from pursuing this fast tracked application processing. However, time is money and most business owners will see the advantage to expedited processing and the new level of protection for their investment by putting a layer of onus on the hired attorney.
The New York State Liquor Authority has introduced a new form application for Off-Premises license applicants (grocery stores, drug stores, liquor stores and wine stores). Previously licenses applications were all encompassing, so in an effort to increase ease and efficiency, the Division of Licensing established an Off-Premises License Application by eliminating all sections not relating directly to Off-Premises applicants. This deletion of inapplicable sections in the Off-
Premises Licensing Application will shorten the timeframe for licensee preparation and completion, as well as examiners' reviews and approvals.
With all these new changes to the application process, licensees no longer have to complete and submit their liquor license applications with trepidation. The New York State Liquor Authority has responded to the fears and concerns of small business owners and continues to work towards bridging the gap between agency and entrepreneur. These changes, although appearing minor, are quite sweeping and open up opportunities for both small businesses and the few attorneys experienced in the area of liquor license laws and application.
About Leesa Naimo-Fredette
Leesa Naimo-Fredette is a United States Small Business Administration Designated Closing Attorney and has represented numerous parties before the New York State Liquor Authority ("SLA") in licensing matters. Leesa has seen the licensing process from the business owner side when she and her husband opened a bar in the area and from the advocate side having represented numerous bar and restaurant owners in matters before the SLA. Leesa fully understands the concerns hospitality businesses have with the licensing process and has experienced firsthand the attention the SLA has paid to resolving these concerns. Recent amendments have made the process smoother and more efficient. With her professional and personal experience, Leesa is well positioned to take advantage of these improvements on behalf of her clients.
Leesa earned a B.S from Russell Sage College and then went on to simultaneously earn a J.D. from Albany Law School and an MBA in Health Systems Administration from the Union Graduate College. Leesa currently resides in Troy with her husband and daughter, and is based in the Albany office of Lemery Greisler LLC, a leading capital region business law firm (http://www.lemerygreisler.com). Leesa is a member of the New York State Bar Association, the Capital District Women's Bar Association and the Albany County Bar Association, in addition to being part of the Rensselaer County Leadership graduating class of 2010. In her spare time, Leesa enjoys abstract photography and tracking down long-lost family members.