The 500 Foot Rule

The 500 FOOT RULE

When applying for a liquor license, the application of the “500 foot rule” often results in the application being rejected. It is imperative that an applicant know whether the rule will apply to their license application and, if it does, to prepare accordingly.

GENERAL RULE: No license for on-premises liquor consumption may be granted for any premise within 500 feet of three or more existing premises licensed and operating with an on-premises liquor license. BUT the State Liquor Authority, in it’s discretion, may still issue the license if they determine that the license would be “in the public interest” after consulting with the local Community Board and holding a public hearing upon notice (a/k/a The 500 Foot Hearing).

Factors the Liquor Authority consider relevant when determining if the license would be “in the public interest” include the type of the proposed establishment (i.e., restaurant or bar), and the number, classes and types of businesses licensed within 500 feet of the proposed premise. They also consider whether the applicant has had prior violations or complaints at other establishments and quality of life issues such as anticipated increased traffic, potential parking problems and noise issues.

The 500 foot hearing is held at the Liquor Authority and individuals and community groups may appear to challenge the granting of a license. A consultation with an experienced liquor license attorney is highly recommended prior to attending this hearing. But in general, wear a suit and be prepared to answer any and all questions regarding your proposed establishment. Bring a copy of your completed liquor license application with you along with all supporting documents filed therewith.

NOTE: The 500 Foot Rule is not applicable if the premises has been continuously licensed on or prior to November 1, 1993 or if the County has a population of less than 20,000.

 

 

THE PUBLIC INTEREST EXCEPTION

Generally, no more than three on-premise liquor licenses are permitted within 500 feet of each other. This is commonly known as the 500 Foot Rule. However, there is an exception to this Rule known as the Public Interest Exception.

If the location is subject to the 500 foot rule, and no “grandfathering” or other exception applies, the license cannot be issued unless the State Liquor Authority makes an affirmative finding that it is in the public interest to issue the license. This clearly creates a presumption that the license should not be issued. The 500 foot rule requires that the Authority consult with the municipality or community board and conduct a hearing to gather facts to determine whether the public interest would be served by issuing the license. This is commonly referred to as the “500 Foot Hearing”.

GENERAL RULE: No more than three on premise liquor licenses will be granted within 500 feet of each other unless the public interest exception applies.

When considering whether it would be in the public interest to approve the application, the Authority may consider the following:

      • the number, classes and character of other licensed premises not only in the area where the proposed establishment will be located but also in the particular municipality (or subdivision of the municipality)
      • whether the applicant has obtained all other necessary governmental licenses and permits
      • the effect on vehicular traffic and parking in proximity to the location
      • the impact on the existing noise level
      • the history of ABC violations and reported criminal activity at the location
      • any other factor specified by law or regulation that would be relevant to deciding whether public convenience and advantage, as well as the public interest, would be served by approving the application

 

The hearing required by the 500 foot rule is conducted before designated staff in the Authority’s four offices. The Members of the Authority have delegated to specific licensing staff the ability to approve applications when, after the hearing is conducted, there is no community opposition and no other reason for disapproval. In cases where the application is opposed by the community, the matter is referred to the Members of the Authority for determination. However, the fact that the community opposes an application does not mean that the Authority must disapprove the application. Conversely, an application may be disapproved even if the community supports it.

 

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