Ariel Palitz Appointed NYC Nightlife Mayor

Last September Mayor Bill DiBlasio created the Office for Nightlife for New York City, and this weekend named Ariel Palitz as its first Executive Director. Ariel, a former bar owner was also a member of Manhattan Community Board 3. The Office for Nightlife will be part of the Office of Media and Entertainment headed by Commissioner Julie Menin. In a post she wrote after her appointment, Ariel said “I look forward to working together with the Advisory Board, and hearing feedback from nightlife operators, curators and community to ensure that New York culture is not only preserved, nurtured and protected, but respected.” We congratulate our friend, Ariel, and look forward to working with her team on nightlife issues.

Butter Group and Marc Forgione Take Former Spice Market Space

Richie Akiva’s Butter Group, whose holdings include 1 Oak, was approved by the New York State Liquor Authority yesterday for a planned new restaurant in the basement of what was Spice Market on Ninth Avenue and 13th Street. Butter Group will partner in the new space with chef Marc Forgione, who is also an owner of American Cut. The new Meatpacking District restaurant will feature Italian-Mediterranean fare. At the SLA hearing yesterday a number of residents as well as a representative from Manhattan Community Board 2 opposed the application. It was approved however with restrictions on the proposed method of operation, including hours.

Donald Bernstein To Teach A Continuing Legal Education Class on Retail Liquor Licenses

On Friday February 9, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. Bernstein Redo, P.C.’s Donald Bernstein will teach a three hour class sponsored by the National Law Institute on New York Retail Liquor Licenses at 1585 Broadway in Manhattan. This class will be for 3 continuing legal education credits, though it is not limited to attorneys. Anyone interested may attend. The class will review all aspects of the licensing law and process, including who may be licensed and who may not, the tied-house rule, the 200 foot rule, and the public interest test of the 500 foot rule, the legal and practical challenges of licensing a hotel, issues regarding licensing private members clubs, temporary permits, the community board process, and other issues. Registration is through the National Law Institute website, www.nationallawinstitute.com.

Donald Bernstein Testifies Before New York State Assembly

On January 11, 2018 three standing committees of the New York State Assembly held a joint hearing on the public health and criminal justice implications of the legalization of marijuana in New York. Assembly Member Joseph R. Lentol, Chair of the Committee on Codes, extended an invitation to Bernstein Redo, P.C.’s Donald Bernstein to testify at that hearing to which a number of law enforcement, health professionals, and attorneys were invited. Mr. Bernstein spoke on proposed rules and legislation providing for the licensing of retail stores in New York that would be permitted to sell cannabis under the proposed law, analyzing its similarity with existing liquor laws and regulations and comparing it with existing legislation in other states, such as Colorado and Oregon. In response to inquiries by one of the bill’s sponsors, Assembly Member Chrystal Peoples-Stokes, Bernstein proposed and discussed changes to the pending legislation.

Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits Fined $3.5 Million

Upstate New York giant liquor and wine wholesaler Southern Glazers Wine and Spirits, the largest in the country, was fined a whopping $3.5 million by the New York State Liquor Authority yesterday. This is the largest fine ever imposed by the SLA. An investigation into its “pay to play” activities began in January 2016. Southern salespersons allegedly swiped their company credit cards at favored retail licensed establishments without receiving anything in return. This, according to the SLA, was intended to influence the retailer’s decision to buy products from Southern, a violation of the “gift and services” prohibition of state law. SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley called the extent of the violations “staggering.”

City Council Repeals 1926 Cabaret Law

Last week, the New York City Council voted nearly unanimously to repeal what is referred to as the Cabaret Law, subchapter 20 of chapter 2 of title 20 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York. That section had required premises where there is dancing or other conditions stated in the law to obtain a cabaret license from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.

The Cabaret Law was first introduced in 1926 to supposedly crack down on racketeers, though according to the October 30, 2017 City Council’s Committee Report of the Governmental Affairs Division, Committee on Consumer Affairs, some argued the law’s true aim was to prevent interracial mingling in Harlem jazz clubs. Over the decades there were a number of legal challenges to the law; some were successful and certain provisions of the cabaret law were struck down, and some, specifically related to dancing, were not. Many venues, including hotels and restaurant/lounges, that are not nightclubs, have suffered violations of the law simply when patrons standing at the bar dance or sway to music. This often resulted in the issuance of criminal court summonses, and license revocations proceedings by the New York State Liquor Authority. Enforcement however has been inconsistent.

After an exhaustive review and intense lobbying, the new local law sponsored by Councilmember Rafael Espinal and approved by the City Council repeals subchapter 20 and does away with the requirement to obtain a cabaret license for public dancing from the Department of Consumer Affairs. No specific permit will be required specifically for dancing under the new regulation, once it becomes law.

For premises that carry zoning use group 12, however, the new law still imposes requirements that are important to be aware of. Use group 12 applies to large entertainment facilities and includes pool halls, bowling alleys, eating and drinking establishments with entertainment for over 200 people, or any premises where there is public dancing. The new requirements include having digital video surveillance cameras at all entrances and exits with specific light and speed requirements that must be in operation during all hours of operation and for two hours after closing. The recordings must be preserved for a minimum of 30 days and signs must be posted notifying the public of the use of video surveillance. The new regulations will also require eating and drinking establishments that operate under use group 12 to have proof that each security guard and security guard company is registered as required by law. The law also specifically denotes what constitutes a security guard.

The repeal and new rules are awaiting signature by the mayor whereupon after a 120 day waiting period it will become law.

Zoning Restrictions – Beware

An article in the New York Times on August 24, 2017 bemoaned the high rents and vacant storefronts in SoHo. Retail rents soared between 2010 and 2014 by 90%, far above other areas of Manhattan. The area became a hub of large flagship stores, such as the 55,000 square foot Nike store on Broadway and Spring Street. Local residents, block associations, and even elected officials were not so happy about that, wanting instead to retain their vision of SoHo with low-scale buildings, artists’ lofts, and small independent retailers. Towards that end, there are special zoning restrictions in SoHo that limit the size of stores to no more than 10,000 square feet. There are also specific zoning restrictions in SoHo and other parts of the City that limit the size of eating and drinking establishments. The Zoning Resolution limits eating drinking establishments in M1-5A and M1-5B districts to 5,000 square feet. Other portions of the Resolution limit other areas to 3,500 square feet. Be aware of these restrictions if you are planning to open a restaurant or bar, and speak with a zoning expert.

New York State Considers A Bill to Permit In-Theater Alcohol Service

New bills currently under committee review in both houses of the New York State legislature would permit the in-theater consumption of alcoholic beverages in New York State cinemas.

Although theaters can currently serve alcohol in licensed lobby areas, and under recent legislation  in the theatre itself  provided full meals are offered and the theatre fits within the definition of a “restaurant,” the proposed legislation would take it a step further.

The proposed bills (Assembly Bill A07188 and Senate Bill S05784) would amend the New York Alcoholic Beverage Control Law to allow theaters to serve alcohol if the following requirements are met: each patron would need to provide evidence that he or she is 21 or older, and is a ticketholder for a motion picture rated PG-13, R or NC-17.  Additional restrictions in the drafted text intend to limit the hours of operation – permitting theaters to begin serving alcohol one hour prior to the start of the first motion picture and cease all sales after the final picture of the day – and to limit patron service to just a single beverage per transaction.

If passed as proposed, the legislation should not disturb the on-premises liquor licenses held by table-service theaters, or prevent theaters from continuing to obtain on-premises licenses for lobby areas where movies are not shown.

New Bill Introduced to Establish Office of Nightlife and Night Mayor

A new bill introduced in the New York City Council (Int. No. 1648) aims to establish an Office of Nightlife complete with a “Nightlife Task Force” and, as the bill’s sponsor has termed it, a “Night Mayor.”  If passed, the proposed Local Law would amend the New York City Administrative Code to mandate the creation of a task force to study New York City Laws, rules, and regulations and issue recommendations to address “common issues and trends in the nightlife industry.”  As written, the proposed task force would be a temporary group consisting of nine members with a singular purpose of drafting a report on how to improve policies and laws that impact nightlife in New York City.  The task force will be required to submit its report and recommendations to the Mayor and Speaker of the Council within one year of the Council’s enactment of the Local Law.

According to reports from a recent hearing at City Hall, Council Member Rafael Espinal, Jr., one of the sponsors of the new Office of Nightlife bill, has indicated his intention to introduce additional legislation to repeal or rework the Cabaret Law.  The Cabaret Law, a section of the New York City Administrative Code enacted in the 1920s, currently prohibits operating any “room, place or space… in which any musical entertainment, singing, dancing or other form of amusement is permitted” without a cabaret license issued by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.

Bernstein Redo, P.C. will continue to follow the proposed bill and, if passed by the New York City Council, will be ready to advise our hospitality clients.