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New SLA Procedures to Streamline Applications

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Officially, the State Liquor Authority (SLA) processes license applications within 24 to 26 weeks. In reality, processing times are often much longer. Although the SLA has been hiring more staff to tackle its application backlog, Chairman Vincent Bradley recently admitted at a full-board meeting that the agency is facing difficulty in finding applicants to fill these jobs. Well aware of these years-long delays, the SLA recently approved numerous advisories to help streamline and simplify the application process and speed up processing times. This edition of Know the Law summarizes some of the key changes.

​Adjacent Storage Space. Often, licensees have storage spaces that are contiguous to the licensed premises but from which there is no direct internal access. In the past, that storage space required a warehouse permit if the alcoholic beverages were to be placed there. In the future, if adjacent space is used only for storage (not for service or consumption) and the space can be accessed either through public space or another space controlled by the licensee, the applicant will be allowed to include that “warehouse” space in the licensed premises and will not be required to get a warehouse permit.

Temporary Permits. To speed up the licensing process the legislature expanded the eligibility of temporary retail permits. Still, where there is a 500-foot hearing, the temporary permit cannot be issued until a decision has been reached by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has approved the application. Rather than wait for a formal written decision from the ALJ, the licensing unit will move forward with the temporary permit based just on an email from the ALJ confirming approval. The SLA also has discretion to issue a temporary permit where the ALJ denied the application solely because the applicant did not provide certain paperwork, such as community board stipulations. Separately, the SLA confirmed that temporary permits are not available for branch offices when the application for the farm manufacturing license is still pending.

Financial and Ownership Disclosures. Licensees will no longer be required to provide copies of bank statements and related financial documents with the initial application. Rather, the SLA will provide a financial disclosure form on which the applicant will set forth a list of expenses, operating cash, and borrowed funds. After reviewing the disclosure form, the licensing examiner may request any additional documents, deemed necessary. The SLA will also no longer require directors or individuals who own less than 10% of a corporation or LLC to provide detailed information or personal questionnaires.

Leases and Deeds. The SLA is revising its forms to provide for a representation by the applicant as to its right to the premises. Deeds, leases and other documents of title or possession will not need to be submitted with the application unless specifically asked for by the examiner. Moreover, the landlord identification form will be revised to eliminate the need for the disclosure of licenses that are or have been held by the landlord’s principles or to state whether or not the landlord is a police officer.

Certificates of Occupancy. Applicants will not be required to submit certificates of occupancy, letters no objection or public assembly permits as part of the application process. However, the law still requires every licensee to operate in accordance with all state and municipal ordinances, including building, fire, health, and zoning laws. The issuance of the license is not proof that a premises complies with all local laws and failure to comply will subject the applicant to discipline under section 48.3 of the rules of the Authority.

Outdoor Areas. When an applicant seeks to have outdoor space as part of its licensed premise because the space is either owned or leased by the applicant, that outdoor space must be included in the original application or added through an alteration application. It will only be approved if the space is contiguous to the interior space. But where a licensee seeks to use municipal space, such as a sidewalk or roadbed, that area is not really part of the licensed premises. As such, there is no need to include the space in the original application or for an alteration application. The licensee must obtain the appropriate approval from the municipality and notify the SLA in accordance with the procedures outlined on its website.

The SLA has proposed additional advisories to streamline the application process, including recommending other documents and information not be required with an application’s submission. A full list of advisories can be found in the “Guidance Documents” section of the SLA’s website. Taken as a whole, these and the other new advisories demonstrate that the SLA licensing department is doing what it can to speed up the licensing process and eliminate unnecessary obstacles, while the SLA continues to hire sufficient staff and searches for other ways to eliminate the backlog.

This article is not intended to give specific legal advice.  Before taking any action, the reader should consult with an attorney familiar with the relevant facts and circumstances.

Written by

Keven Danow

Founding and Senior Partner
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