There are some hot issues and topics in the world of liquor licensing in New York. We featured one of those issues, licensing private members clubs which have become increasingly popular, in our May 24, 2018 post. Two other models that are emerging are shared workspaces and retail dry good stores. Traditionally, retail stores, including department stores, may have a restaurant or cafe tucked somewhere inside, but they typically do not sell or serve liquor outside of that defined and limited space. There is a trend now to do away with that barrier and license the entire multi-level store. This would allow customers to roam the store with a glass of wine, or to have private events with food and beverages in any part of the store. This model can be seen for example in the new RH Gallery on Ninth Avenue in the Meatpacking District where the entire five story building is licensed, and in the new three story Neiman-Marcus in Hudson Yards. On the other hand, there is opposition to Bloomingdale’s application to license its entire store at 504 Broadway in SoHo. The neighbors and local community board are pushing back, fearful that opening that door would then allow a host of other stores on Broadway, such as Urban Outfitters or Nike, to serve alcohol as well. Not long ago, the State Liquor Authority refused to license a two story venue that had a restaurant on the ground floor and spa in the cellar, determining that a spa is not a proper venue for a liquor license.
Another venue that does not traditionally have a food and beverage component, shared workspaces such as We Work, have also been looking to obtain liquor licenses as an amenity to its tenants. Some legal issues have so far stymied licensing some of those spaces, particularly those shared workspaces where separate offices are leased out to members. On the other hand, the Wing, shared workspace designed for women is licensed at their SoHo and Dumbo locations. Those locations, however, unlike the WeWork model, do not assign specific offices to tenants. How the State Liquor Authority deals with licensing full retail stores and shared workspaces will be developing and we will be watching. Stay tuned.