NY State offering deferments, not refunds, for liquor license fees

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IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. (WROC) — East Ridge Billiards in Irondequoit falls in the state-designated orange zone, meaning it hasn’t been open since around Thanksgiving.

When open, it serves alcoholic beverages. Its November closure means East Ridge Billiards isn’t serving drinks, but is still paying for the state-issued privilege to sell liquor.

“It’s a concern,” said Chris Braiman, the establishment’s co-owner, “that’s one of the bigger expenses every year to operate a bar.”

Braiman told News 8 the license costs some $2,000 over two years. Without bringing in new business, the liquor license cost is another in a long list local establishments are facing as they weather the pandemic.

Braiman is wondering whether help is on the way from the state to offset the cost of liquor licenses.

“We need to know what’s going on,” Braiman added. “Are we getting a refund? Are we getting a credit?”

The New York State Liquor Authority has stated they have a policy which allows the deferral of renewal fee payments, but under law, refunds or timeframe adjustments for the liquor licenses could not be granted.

The SLA’s statement provided to News 8 reads as follows:

“Since day one, New York State has implemented policies to support the restaurant and hospitality industries as we all weather the impacts of this global pandemic, including prohibiting commercial evictions, allowing bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to go, extending the timeline for licensees to make renewal payments, cutting red tape to allow for the immediate expansion of outdoor dining, and working with the private sector to launch a $100 million small business loan fund. The SLA will continue to look at every measure within its power to help to lessen the impacts of this public health emergency on businesses – but in this case the law does not allow the SLA to provide refunds for active licenses or to change fees for or duration of licenses.”

Background: The Alcoholic Beverage Control law dictates the precise timeframe and fees for liquor licenses as well as the terms of refund – only after surrender/cancellation.  Currently under the law, the SLA does not have the power to provide refunds on licensing fees or to adjust the timeframes under which licenses have been granted.   

— New York State Liquor Authority

State Senator Tim Kennedy (D-63), who represents part of the Buffalo area in the state’s upper legislative body, is asking the governor’s office and State Liquor Authority to waive or reducing the price of renewing a state liquor license.

“When you are asking a small business, a restaurant or a bar, to fork over thousands of dollars for a liquor license that they can’t even use, it just does not make any sense,” Kennedy said, in an interview with WIVB, News 8’s sister station in Buffalo.

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