NEW YORK - It’s no secret that restaurant and bar owners have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Some establishments have lost more than just revenue but their liquor license as well.
According to the latest numbers from the State Liquor Authority released in early December, almost 300 businesses across the state had their liquor licenses suspended, amid the health crisis.
SLA records also show businesses have paid tens of thousands of dollars to get their licenses back.
What You Need To Know
- According to latest numbers from the State Liquor Authority released in early December, almost 300 businesses across the state had their liquor licenses suspended, amid the health crisis
- Data released by the SLA on those license suspensions shows that businesses have paid tens of thousands of dollars in order to get their licenses back
- Some business owners, who lost their liquor license and spoke with NY1, said that they felt the SLA should have been more lenient in issuing punishments for what they considered to be minor infractions
- "Every licensee is given the option to argue their case at a hearing before an independent administrative law judge, with a translator available if requested," a spokesperson for the State Liquor Authority said
“We were kinda being watched from afar and on a 100-degree day. A server is running around and can’t breathe and takes down the mask to get a breath of air and they are there taking a picture of it and now you get $90,000 in fines,” said Rob, the owner of a NYC restaurant, of his license suspension earlier this year.
Rob who has operated a New York City restaurant for roughly five years, did fight back.
His attorney requested a hearing, on his behalf, and was able to negotiate the fine down to $20,000.
It was far less than the initial $90,000 fine but Rob also had to pay his attorney to fight the suspension.
He said the fine was still a punch to the gut at a time when they’re just barely hanging on.
Rob MacKay, with the Queens Economic Development Corporation said that in working with local businesses, he’s heard this story before.
“The restaurant owner said he’s just paranoid that the SLA or another city agency is sending people over to intentionally go in without a mask on and then give them a fine. It might not have any truth in it but the paranoia brings an extra level of stress that you have to deal with,” said MacKay.
Several other owners who lost their liquor licenses in recent months expressed similar concerns with NY1, but did not feel comfortable going on camera.
They said they believed the SLA could have cut them a break, but didn’t for what the violators deem to be minor infractions.
A spokesperson for the State Liquor Authority said “every licensee is given the option to argue their case at a hearing before an independent administrative law judge, with a translator available if requested.”
“We are still in the midst of a global pandemic that is killing over a thousand Americans daily, and the SLA has zero tolerance for those who put New Yorkers’ lives at risk by repeatedly violating public health laws,” the spokesperson added. “Summary license suspensions are issued when the SLA Board finds the continued operation of a bar or restaurant threatens public health and safety.”
Some told NY1 that there are owners who are afraid to defend themselves because they fear the situation will only get worse if they fight it.
“I think people are afraid. I dont think that we should be afraid of the SLA I think the SLA should work with us,” said “Rob” who did get his liquor license back after paying a fine.
The executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance suggests there is a solution he’s proposed a regulatory framework that includes “a warning system for first time violators” which would also provide “an opportunity to fix a violation before immediately fining them and suspending their license.”
The latest SLA numbers can be found on the on their website.