NYC PARTY 101
THE LEGAL AND COMPLIANCE EXCERPTS AND EXPLANATIONS INCLUDED ON THIS PAGE ARE COMPILED FROM THE NEW YORK STATE LIQUOR AUTHORITY (NYSLA) AND OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES AND BRANCHES BASED ON FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IS APPLICABLE ONLY IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK.
TYPES OF LICENSES FOR EVENTS
CATERERS OFF-PREMISE PERMIT
CATERERS PERMITS (all) ‐ Section 98 Authorizes an active on‐premises retail licensee to furnish alcoholic beverages for use at a specific event located off the licensed premises. Applicant must be hired to furnish provisions (food) and alcoholic beverages at the event. An applicant cannot cater for themselves. Such permit shall be valid for a period not to exceed 24 consecutive hours commencing 8:00 a.m. of the effective date of such permit and shall authorize the permittee to furnish provisions and alcoholic beverages for use at an indoor event. Only alcoholic beverages that can be sold at the licensed premises can be served. Alcohol must be purchased from a licensed brewery, winery, or wholesaler. Purchasing from a grocery store or liquor store is prohibited. If a licensee is delivering alcoholic beverages, it may do so in a vehicle that is owned/hired and operated by the licensee. A copy of the license must be kept in the cab of the vehicle.
This permit shall be subject to the following conditions:
1. Application must be received by the Liquor Authority a minimum of 15 days prior to the event.
2. Food must be provided by applicant/licensee, meeting the minimum requirements under §64-a of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, for example: salads, soups, sandwiches, finger foods. Pretzels and potato chips do not meet the minimum requirements for food.
Additional Documentation for Caterer Permits:
- Site Diagram: A diagram of the area to be licensed or a Floor plan which marks all Entrances and Exits.
- Menu: A menu for the food and alcoholic beverages to be served.
- Landlord Permission Form: The landlord for the property where the event will take place must complete and submit the form.
TEMPORARY BEER & WINE PERMIT
Authorizes the sale of WINE or BEER at retail for consumption at a gathering for a period not to exceed 24 consecutive hours. Such permit shall be valid for a period not to exceed 24 consecutive hours commencing 8:00 a.m. of the effective date of such permit except that in no event shall the sale of beer be permitted prior to 12:00 Noon on Sunday or during the hours prohibited by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law or by rule of the county government in which the event is being held.
Beer and wine must be purchased from a licensed brewery, winery, or wholesaler. Purchasing the beer from a grocery store and the wine from a liquor store is prohibited.
This permit shall be subject to the following conditions:
1. Application must be received by the Liquor Authority a minimum of 15 days prior to the event.
2. No alcoholic beverages except beer or wine may be kept or be permitted to be kept or sold on the premises during the period that any permit issued in accordance with this application is in effect.
3. No beer or wine may be taken from the premises where said event is held except that at the termination of said event, any beer or wine which shall remain on hand will be removed from said premises by brewer, winery or wholesaler from which it was purchased, or by its designated agent. 4. Beer may be sold, served or consumed in rooms or areas in which authorized games of chance are held. Applicants must provide a copy of the Racing and Wagering certificate with the application.
5. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law limits the number of Temporary Beer & Wine permits that can be issued for a location to four (4) permits during a 12 month period.
Alcoholic beverages can only be donated to a not-for-profit organization that is holding an event that is being catered by an on-premises licensee other than the not-for-profit organization. This is the case whether the event takes place at the caterer’s licensed premises or at an unlicensed location when the caterer has obtained a permit for the event. The alcoholic beverages may be delivered to the caterer to be held on behalf of the not-for-profit until the event is held. Any alcoholic beverages remaining after the event must be removed by the not-for-profit or the licensee that made the donation.
Donations are only permitted if attendees at the event are not charged for the alcoholic beverages (an “open bar”, for example). If the caterer is going to charge attendees for alcoholic beverages (a “cash bar”, for example), the caterer must purchase the alcoholic beverages from a duly authorized licensed wholesaler or manufacturer and may not share profits from such sales with the not- for-profit organization.
NOTE: In deciding whether to issue the permit, the Authority will consider the licensee’s disciplinary history (including pending charges) and whether, given the nature of the event, the licensee has adequate facilities and security plans in place. The Authority’s Licensing Bureau will make a decision on each application within 10 business days of filing. If the Licensing Bureau denies the application, the licensee can request a review of the decision by a Member of the Authority. Such requests should be sent to the Office of Counsel at the Authority’s Albany office. A Member of the Authority will review the decision and make a final determination within 10 business days of receipt of the request.
To issue permits the applicant is required to have an “On-Premise License” which is then extended “Off-Premise” to your Event Location. The applicant must provide related services during the period of licensing.
Caterer service charge is always subject to sales tax.
See: TSB-M-09(13)S, Sales Tax on Gratuities and Service
TYPES OF ALCOHOL BRAND SPONSORED EVENTS
BUSINESS MEETINGS OR BUSINESS ENTERTAINMENT
This means a gathering of a supplier employees, and/or representatives for entities that do business with a supplier (including other suppliers, distributors and retailers). There must be a legitimate business purpose for the meeting, like discussing product sales, new product introductions etc. It does not include holiday parties or other special occasion events. There are no spending restrictions, or limits on the number of meetings at any particular on premise location. The event must be in a reserved area (can be as little as one table), and at least one supplier employee must be present. Retail licensees and their employees can be invited and an invite can be sent to all employees of a particular retailer. Media reps can be present. The events must take place at either a licensed on-premises retailer’s establishment or a location for which a caterer’s permit has been issued.
PRIVATE INVITATION ONLY EVENTS CLOSED TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC
This is an event not conducted for a business purpose or for promotional purposes. It must be a gathering of invitees who have an identifiable affiliation with a supplier (e.g., a party for employees, vendors or business associates), or a common affiliation or relationship with each other (e.g. journalists, sports teams or non-profit organizations). The language of the advisory makes it clear the group cannot just be a large gathering of a group of consumers or potential consumers without meaningful commonality other than an attempt to market or target a demographic. Invitations must be sent by a supplier to invitees by individual name, each such invitee may bring only one guest. Invites can be by phone, e-mail, letter, in person, etc. Invites cannot be in any type of media advertisement or generic communication to anyone wishing to attend and cannot be sent to a “mailing list” of consumers obtained or created by a supplier. The event must be in a reserved area (can be as little as one table) and at least one supplier employee must be present. Despite the stated non-business and non-promotional purpose of the events, retail licensees and their employees can be invited, as can the media. A supplier cannot send a general invite to all employees of a retailer or a retail chain.
PROMOTIONAL EVENTS OPEN TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC – NO INVITATION REQUIRED
Prior to the advisory, a bar spend was limited to $500 (plus 20% tip) and no more than six events per retailer, per year. Now, the limit is $700 (plus 20% tip), and no more than ten events per retailer, per year. A supplier cannot purchase food, non-alcoholic beverages, or anything else from the retailer for such an event. These events can now be advertised, identifying the time, date and location. Invites may also be sent to members of the general public, but the event cannot be restricted to people that received such invitations. There is no longer a need to submit statements after these events; a supplier must maintain a record of each event for two years that includes date, time, location and duration, brands that were purchased, and names of supplier reps or agents who conducted the event.
PROMOTIONAL EVENTS OPEN TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC – INVITATION REQUIRED (“BRAND EXPERIENCE EVENTS”)
This is a new category of events which will be extremely helpful for supplier marketing and promotions in New York. The advisory refers to these as “brand experience” events that are “much larger” than bar spend events. At a brand experience event, a supplier can spend up to $10,000 (plus 20% tip), and may purchase alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beverages and food. A supplier can also apply to the SLA for advance permission to spend more than $10,000 for an event. A supplier can have up to six such events per retailer per year (whether the event is at a retail premises or whether a retailer caters the event, as catering permits in New York are only held by on-premise licensees). Attendees at these events must be invited and an event can be restricted to invitees only. A supplier can invite people individually (by phone, letter, e-mail, in person, etc.), or can also place media advertisements including invitations, generic communications inviting anyone who wishes to attend to register, and “mailing lists” of consumers. A supplier can advertise brand experience events, including date, time and location. Each person registered as an invitee may bring one guest. A supplier must maintain a record of each event for two years that includes date, time, location and duration, brands that were purchased, and names of supplier reps or agents who conducted the event.
A supplier may donate product to a not-for-profit organization for an event which the not-for-profit organization is conducting, either at licensed premises or at an unlicensed location with a permit from the SLA. A supplier can also receive promotional benefits in exchange for the donation to the organization. The only real restriction is that a supplier cannot choose the retailer for the event. The new advisory does not use the same restrictive “bona fide charitable organization” language used in the tasting advisory published in July, 2013. It appears that non-charitable not-for-profit organizations qualify for these events.
PRIVATE/BRAND EXPERIENCE EVENTS AT UNLICENSED LOCATIONS
The new advisory allows a supplier to conduct a private invitation-only event or a brand experience event at an unlicensed location and to provide the alcoholic beverages for that event without having to fit into one of the four event types above. Note that any unused alcoholic beverages must be removed by a supplier after any event under this section. An appropriate permit must be in place for these events. This means that a supplier should use a retail licensee caterer for such events at this stage.
TYPES OF NYSLA LICENSES
CATERING ESTABLISHMENT: Allows providers of food for banquet halls, dining halls, etc., to provide liquor, wine and beer for consumption for an assemblage for a particular function (i.e. retirement dinner, wedding reception, private party) to which the general public is not admitted. This license is for this type of function only.
ON-PREMISES LIQUOR: Generally considered to be the standard “bar” license. Allows on-premises consumption of liquor, wine and beer and also allows for sale of beer (only) for off-premises consumption. Food, such as soups and sandwiches, MUST be served.
MARKETING PERMITS: A Marketing Permit may be used at the following events/locations: a) in the case of a licensed wholesaler, at its licensed premises, provided however that a beer wholesaler may only use the permit at its licensed premises; b) an establishment licensed under the ABCL to sell at retail the alcoholic beverage that will be tasted; c) the State Fair, recognized county fairs and farmers markets operated on a not-for-profit basis; d) outdoor or indoor gatherings, functions, occasions or events sponsored by a bona fide charitable organization;1 and e) other indoor or outdoor events specifically approved by the Authority. In deciding whether to approve the use of a permit for a particular event, the Authority shall consider the nature and location of the event, and the plan of supervision submitted by the applicant to insure compliance with the ABCL. The Authority must be notified at least 15 days before the event. The Authority retains the power to disapprove the use of the permit at a particular function for good cause. The location for the event shall be deemed approved within 7 days unless the Authority notifies the permit holder of its objection.
Marketing Permits can be used at a licensed premise, alcohol retailer, wholesaler, state fair, charity organization event, or by special request per event, with approval by the NYSLA.
BYOB, or “Bring Your Own Bottle,”: Where owners of establishments allow their customers to bring alcoholic beverages to their premises to be consumed on site, is NOT PERMITTED in unlicensed businesses in New York State. You MUST have a license or permit to sell/serve beer, wine or liquor to the public. Venues without a license or permit may not allow patrons to “bring their own” alcoholic beverages for consumption. In addition, owners of businesses may not give away alcoholic beverages to their patrons. Those that do are in violation of the NYS Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. Applicants should be aware that allowing BYOB without a license may jeopardize their chances for approval of their license. Typical capacity of 40 and under.
- Temporary licenses for unlicensed premises are possible to obtain, if necessary in 2-3 days (15 days lead time for application per state law), circumstances depending and on the SLA office’s applicant processing backlog. Two days is the minimum time to alert the local precinct, which is SLA mandatory. In past experience, it has proved to be positive for the event, as once the precinct knows the party is happening they have no reason to investigate it knowing it is legal, preventing wasting city services resources.
- A Temporary Place of Assembly permit is required for events over 74 if there isn’t already a Certificate of Occupancy for a related use or a Public Assembly permit for the premises. A Letter of No Objection can also allow a larger guest count.
- By law, alcohol must be purchased from a licensed brewery, winery, or wholesaler. Purchasing from a grocery store or liquor store is prohibited.
- Temp beer and wine licenses are easier to get approved and don’t require food.
- The NYC law is no alcohol sales from 4am-8am M-S and no sales till 10am on Sundays.
- Obtaining off-premise service licenses (both Catering and Beer and Wine) for multiple dates over an extended period of time is permitted.
- Temporary Beer & Wine permits can be issued for a location to applicants without an on-premise NYSLA license, limited to 4 permits during a 12 month period.
- As a general guideline, there should be a minimum of one licensed and trained security guard/fire guard in every premise when 75 or more patrons are present at the same time.
- If the establishment uses the services of a security guard company rather than employing its own security guards, the security guard company must be licensed by the NYS Department of State.
- An Open Flame permit issued by the FDNY is needed for use of sternos, candles, etc.
- A Sound Permit issued by the local precinct’s Community Affairs Officer is required for some outdoor events.
- The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law prohibits certain licenses from being issued if the location of the establishment is on the same street and within 200 feet of a building that is used exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or other place of worship.
- Wavers are not insurance.
- There is NO bartender’s license, the only certification the NYSLA recognizes is ATAP certification. Contact us for links to our agency certifications and endorsements.
- Going legal can be fun! Aside from ditching the stress of operating under the radar, you can now open your parties up to sponsors (we have beer, wine, liquor, mixer sponsors as well as clients and affiliated brands interested in engaging with your audiences – consider opportunities like before prime-time on-site brand activations and/or open bar happy hours to entice people to arrive earlier, in kind and monetary sponsorships and cross-audience promotional considerations.
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