Liquor Licensing & Alcoholic Beverage Control

Alcoholic beverage sales are strictly regulated in many states. An alcoholic beverage license or permit, depending on the jurisdiction, may be issued at the municipal level or the state level. It may require formal action by the legislative governing body and perhaps a public hearing. It must be renewed annually, and the renewal may be subject to a public hearing. In some jurisdictions, the number of licenses in each municipality is limited based on population, and/or the number of licenses in which a single individual or entity can hold an interest is limited to two. A comprehensive application and background investigation, requiring detailed financial information and often fingerprinting, are mandatory; for corporate applicants, an investigation typically includes officers, directors, and shareholders. Where a licensed premises may be located, and how it can be physically changed, are subject to their own sets of rules. Technical violations can result in disciplinary action against the licensee, including license suspension.

Attorneys at Gibbons have broad experience with, and a comprehensive understanding of, the relevant state and local regulatory laws and agencies that determine an establishment’s ability to serve or sell alcohol. We have strong relationships with liquor license brokers and detailed familiarity with the marketplace and the complex, comprehensive regulatory scheme that includes statutory, administrative, and municipal law. We also provide one-stop shopping for development, corporate, and bankruptcy clients; for example, if a client needs to acquire an alcoholic beverage license for its newly formed LLC and/or newly constructed restaurant, or if an otherwise scarce liquor license becomes available in a bankruptcy case, Gibbons has a complete team ready to assist. The firm also hosts compliance seminars and offers other value-added services to keep clients abreast of the complex set of rules and regulations that governs their alcoholic beverage business operations. The Liquor Licensing & Alcoholic Beverage Control Team at Gibbons represents a wide variety of interests, including:

    • Buyers and sellers of existing licenses and permits
    • Entities seeking state or local law amendments to permit the issuance of new licenses or permits
    • Clients seeking the issuance of hotel licenses
    • Clients seeking to oppose or overturn transfers of licenses or permits
    • Clients seeking special state permits and state formal administrative rulings
    • Clients requiring assistance with annual renewals or responses to enforcement proceedings
    • Business groups seeking legislation to change the laws governing the purchase of licenses

Areas of Focus

Liquor Licensing and Related Issues

Many of our alcoholic beverage clients are existing firm clients who need assistance with alcoholic beverage issues in the formation of new businesses or development of new retail stores, restaurants, or hotels, while new clients are attracted to Gibbons for our attorneys’ strengths and capabilities in the area. We assist clients with the full range of issues related to alcoholic beverage control and liquor licenses, which vary by jurisdiction, including:

    • License or permit issuance, transfers, and renewals
    • Background checks
    • Issuance of new licenses, including at public auction
    • Operating hours restrictions
    • Ordinance amendments and local referenda
    • BYOB
    • Social Affair Permits
    • Minor Employment Permits
    • Regulatory compliance and enforcement actions
    • Drafting and negotiation of license purchase and/or sale agreements
    • Revenue sharing with franchisors and landlords
    • Reporting requirements (including corporate management changes)
    • Disclosure of past misconduct
    • Objections to proposed licensees
    • Interpretations of regulations (including requests for formal administrative opinions)
    • Appeals of license issuance or denial
    • Litigation
    • Tied-house violations
    • Acquisition and transfer of licenses in bankruptcy cases
    • Securing of tax clearance certificates from the applicable taxing authorities
    • Advocacy in support of or in opposition to legislation and regulatory proposals

Municipal Issues: The Liquor Licensing & Alcoholic Beverage Control Team at Gibbons has not only worked with the ABC laws in these contexts, but we have actually assisted clients in drafting ABC-related municipal ordinance amendments and legislation seeking to change state law. Moreover, Gibbons attorneys have cultivated long-term working relationships in hundreds of municipalities through our work in the land use and government affairs arenas. We have developed strong familiarity with and insight into the state administrative system, as well as vital connections with many Attorneys General, Department Heads, and other state employees.