Wooden chairs in front of a bar, with drinks on tap

Why the SLA wants a personal questionnaire from managers when the owner operator is not running the business

The process for obtaining a liquor license is a rigorous one. It should be impossible to get a license if you don’t show that you have the good faith intention, and the actual ability, to operate a responsible business in compliance with the law. The SLA has been increasingly asking for a personal questionnaire from managers in cases where the business is operated primarily by managers rather than an owner. Where there is a manager running the shop, he or she is the person who will be responsible for complying with the law. The SLA wants to be sure there is the requisite experience for such responsibility.

In this situation, the manager must have enough experience to convince the Authority the business will be operated responsibly and legally despite the absence of the owner. Additionally, criminal history will be considered not only of the manager, but also of his or her spouse. This can raise concerns for the employee and spouse and a time when professional guidance is a good idea. May times I have been told this seems unfair. The employees should not need to be part of the liquor license process as it is invasive and not fair of a mere employee. The SLA confirmed in writing that such managers are not liable or responsible for paying fines of the licensee but they will be reviewed in the licensing process.

Let’s look at a recent case that explain why the policy exists.

The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the license of 502 Bar Restaurant Corp at 170-13 Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica after a violent incident by the manager and resulting in the stabbing of a security guard. This followed 3 other violent incidents since the premises opened just a year ago. The licensee has never been seen at the bar by police personnel despite indicating that she would be the sole manager, and has effectively given authority to the manager, an unapproved person, to operate and supervise the premises. Additionally, there has been a continued pattern of sales to intoxicated patrons and the employment of unlicensed security guards. The SLA charged the bar with 27 violations of the ABC Law, including disorderly premises, inadequate supervision and becoming a focal point for police attention.

Licensees with full time managers can raise some unintended and unknown issues. Employers are not privy to the background of employees and certainly not of spouses. If you are applying for a license and find yourself in a sticky situation, you may find professional guidance useful in the process.

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