The New York State Liquor Authority has acted the major regulator of dancing in venues offering alcohol using a scheme that Liquor Licenses and a venues Method of Operation must show whether the venue is offering patron dancing and collaborates with Community Boards to restrict dancing and live music. The SLA collaborates with Community Boards in its enforcement.
The New York State Liquor Authority is the overriding regulator of dancing and music in New York City, because almost all venues require liquor licenses. A licensee must operate in accordance with the Method of Operation as stated in its license application.
In the Method of Operation form used by the SLA, the licenses applicant is asked whether there will be live or recorded music and whether there will be patron dancing. At least 30 days prior to filing the application, the applicant must notify the applicable Community Board. Many Community Boards have their own notification forms to be completed by the applicant, or the applicant may use the SLA form. Community Boards may then ask applicants to agree to certain conditions in a document known as a “Stipulation.” The SLA may or may not include the Stipulation in the Method of Operation. If the license holder wishes to change it Method of Operation, it must give notice to the Community Board again and file a change application with the SLA.
- The 30 day Notice – SLA requires a 30 day notice to Community Boards of new license applications or modifications of Method of Operation
- Some Community Boards have developed their own form for 30 day notices or information required of applicants
- SLA invites Community Boards to Require Applicants for Licenses to Sign Stipulations Prohibiting the Applicant from Allowing Dancing and Live Music.
- The SLA approved process allows the SLA and Community Boards to supersede the Zoning Resolution by restricting and disallowing allowed activities such as live music and dancing.
- Community Boards ask the SLA to include the Stipulations in any Liquor License Granted.
- Many requirements found in stipulations add additional requirements not found in the Zoning Resolution or otherwise regulated by Building and Environmental regulations – e.g. sound levels.
- Community Boards are non-elected.
- Community Boards have a committee structure and review of liquor licenses is delegated to certain committees or sub-committees. Often, a few committee members dominate theses committees and in general their recommendations are approved by the Board.
- Thus, regulation of music is under the thumb of a few non-elected members.
The SLA states at https://sla.ny.gov/community-input.
Input from municipalities and the local communities where applicants intend to operate their businesses is an essential part of the State Liquor Authority’s licensing process. All new applicants must notify their local municipality or Community Board at least 30 days prior to applying for a license. This 30-day prior notice ensures municipalities have an opportunity to assess prospective licensees and provide the Authority with a recommendation. When a municipality or Community Board submits a recommendation in favor of, or against granting the license, the recommendation becomes part of the record used by the Authority in deciding whether to approve the application.
Concerning Community Boards, the SLA provides this further guidance Community Board Q & A at https://sla.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2018/08/cbq-n.pdf.
For certain types of establishments, Community Boards are notified before the SLA receives an application. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law requires that anyone applying for an on premises license notify their community board of their intention to apply for a liquor license 30 days before filing an application with the State Liquor Authority. Proof of the 30 day notice must be submitted with the application
Stipulations: Before a license is issued, if a Community Board and applicant agree to certain conditions of the license, some of which can be written into the license and some that cannot, how can the Community Board handle this? If the Community Board and the applicant reach an agreement with respect to the operation of the establishment, the applicant can incorporate into the application those conditions that are relevant to the operation of a licensed establishment.
What weight does the CB have in recommending approval or denial of retail license? While not binding on the Members of the Authority, the SLA considers input from community boards in all licensing decisions. However, courts have held that, for applications not subject to the 500 foot rule, community opposition alone is not sufficient to disapprove an application.
Concerning it participation in M.A.R.C.H, the same SLA memorandum states:
How does SLA initiate its training with the New York City Police Department? The SLA coordinates with multiple agencies including the NYPD to monitor potential problem premises. The SLA additionally holds numerous training seminars with police departments, and has recently updated our “Law Enforcement Handbook” designed to provide law enforcement agencies with the information they need in order to charge licensee’s who violate the ABC Law. The SLA also participates in the MARCH (Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots) program in New York City. The MARCH program is run out of the Criminal Justice Coordinator’s office (CJC) and coordinated by the NYPD. These multi-agency operations have been an extremely successful partnership in an effort to ensure the safety of NYC residents. The SLA will continue to participate in MARCH operations to ensure our limited resources are being utilized efficiently. Community complaints help the SLA to target the establishments that have become a nuisance to the neighborhoods.
The SLA was the significant actor in the offensive M.A.R.C.H. swat teams created by Mayor Giuliani, which descended unannounced on venues of Friday and Saturday nights, fining and padlocking venues, often with the excuse of lack of a Cabaret Law license. The City Council curbed their activities by enacting a law restricting the activities of M.A.R.C.H.
Here is an example of the Stipulation Form CB1 for Community Board 1 in Manhattan containing specific questions as to dancing and music.
Here is a questionnaire required by Community Board 3 of Manhattan
The SLA maintains a database of licenses at https://data.ny.gov/Economic-Development/Liquor-Authority-Current-List-of-Active-Licenses/hrvs-fxs2/data. See State Liquor Authority Regulation of Dancing and Music ; Method of Operations and License Database.