Violations, Permits, Hearings, and Grading

Pierce & Kwok LLP — Hospitality/Alcohol Beverage Law Services

Experienced New York Restaurant and Bar Attorneys
Pierce & Kwok LLP represents dozens of bars, restaurants, music venues, and dance clubs across New York City across the full spectrum of hospitality-associated permitting, violations, fines, licensing and ticketing. We are extremely experienced in working with the New York Police Department (NYPD), the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA), The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH). Feel free to contact us for a free consultation regarding how to solve your problem.
The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH) and the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA), are responsible for issuing many city permits and licenses, both optional or mandatory. Some of the most popular include:
Sidewalk Café Permits

Sidewalk Permits depend on where your premise is located, how it is zoned, and many other co-factors. Applying for a Sidewalk Café Permit can allow your establishment to have outdoor seating and, depending on its success, drastically increase profits.  Permit acquisition is a complex process and must be handled by a skilled attorney who thoroughly understands the issues involved.

Cabaret License

If you plan to allow live music or dancing at your establishment, you must secure a Cabaret License to make sure that your venue is compliant.  Zoning and allowable use by the New York City Department of Buildings will be the main determining factors here.  Like the Sidewalk Café Permits, this process can also be quite long and complicated.

Caterers Permits

Any business or individual licensed by the New York State Liquor Authority may apply to the Authority for permission to serve alcoholic beverages off-site, in the form of a Caterers Permit.  The applicant must intend to cater the alcoholic beverages as well as the food for the specific, scheduled off-site event.

Special Event Permits

Any business or individual may apply to the New York State Liquor Authority for a “Special Event Permit,” which would allow them to serve beer and wine for a specific, scheduled event.  Special Event Permit applicants need not be currently licensed by the New York State Liquor Authority

NYC Health Permits

Obtaining a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH) permit will ensure that your establishment receives inspections on a regular basis. These inspections will assist you in providing the highest quality product to the public in a safe manner. Failure to obtain a permit is illegal and subjects an establishment to immediate closure.


A health code requirement prohibits the operation of a food service establishment unless a request for a pre-permit inspection is submitted. Without this request for inspection, an establishment will not be allowed to operate.


All violations are considered in determining the result of an inspection. Failure to pass any inspection may result in the issuance of a Notice of Violation (NOV). Failure of three subsequent compliance inspections while your business is in operation may result in the closure of your establishment.

Administrative Hearings

The Department of Health conducts inspections to ensure compliance with all permit requirements and to determine whether there are violations of the various health laws and regulations for regulated facilities and activities. After an inspection, The DOH may issue a Notice of Violation (NOV), order a party to correct the violating conditions, or both. If a party fails to make corrections that were ordered, they may write a Notice of Violation for not complying.


Once issued, the Department of Health sends the NOV to a Health Tribunal, an independent administrative court that is part of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH). At the hearing, a Health Tribunal administrative law judge will hear both sides’ arguments, consider any evidence, and render a decision.

Pierce & Kwok LLP has represented numerous bars and restaurants at hundreds of Administrative Hearings. If you receive a Notice of Violation and want to be represented before the Tribunal, please feel free to call us.

Liquor License Renewal

Since May 1, 2011, applicants should receive an invitation to renew their liquor license in the mail advising them that it is time to renew their license. The invitation will provide instructions on how to renew the application along with a list of documents/information that is to be submitted.


The reporting of any changes of facts since the issue of your previous New York liquor license is necessary. Any of the above will require additional time to complete.  It is always best to start the renewal process as soon as possible – even if nothing has changed.


Liquor license renewals will take a minimum of six weeks to complete.  The application itself will take approximately two weeks to process.  We suggest starting the process no later than eight weeks prior to your license expiration date.

SLA Violations

The Liquor Authority has the power to investigate infractions of New York State’s Alcohol and Beverage Control Laws and issue violations to establishments with liquor licenses.  Common violations of the ABC Law include:


Sale to a minor, sale to an intoxicated person, allowing patrons to consume alcoholic beverages during prohibited hours of consumption, the employment of minor as a hostess, waitress, or waiter, disorderly premises, live music and/or dancing without a valid Cabaret Permit (in NYC), and service outside without a valid Sidewalk Café Permit (In NYC)


Violations of the ABC Law and the Rules of the New York State Liquor Authority can result in the imposition of various penalties against licensees including Suspension, Cancellation, Revocation, Civil Penalty (up to $10,000 per violation), Bond Claim, or a Two-Year-Proscription on the premises or principal (seen in cases of revocation).

SLA Hearings

When issued a notice of violation from the Liquor Authority, you are entitled to an administrative hearing.  This is your opportunity to offer a defense or explanation to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) regarding the alleged violations. Present at these hearings will be the licensee, licensee’s attorney, ALJ, State Liquor Authority Attorney & any witnesses presented by the SLA or Licensee (Police Officers, SLA Enforcement Officers, bartenders, managers, etc.).


The Administrative Law Judge will render a decision based on the facts, evidence and testimony presented at the hearing.  This decision is regarded as merely a recommendation to the Members of the Authority (Chairman, two commissioners of the SLA).  They will make the inevitable ruling, in a “Majority rules” fashion.

Restaurant Letter Grade – Pierce & Kwok LLP has been representing restaurants as regards their letter grade since the very start of the program. It is an unfair and often arbitrary system. Using our knowledge of the law and the procedures of the Health Department and Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) Tribunal, we provide counseling and advocacy that proves comprehensive, individualized, and results-driven.

Our firm has represented hundreds of bar and restaurant operators who were unhappy with their letter grade following an inspection by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).  We vigorously appeal the findings of the inspection in an attempt to lower your fines and improve your letter grade.


Since July 2010, The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH) have required restaurants to post a letter grade in a conspicuous place so that the public can determine the sanitary conditions of the restaurant according to the department. Unfortunately, this process is often unfair, arbitrary, and the grade posted may have little or nothing to do with the actual conditions of the restaurant.


Contact us for a free consultation regarding how to solve your problem.