Licensing Group 2022 Op-Ed

Heather Kirk

This year, we have seen an increase in concepts that have an interactive and hands-on component, such as theaters, immersive installations, art studios, cooking class venues, flower school venues, dance studios, bowling alleys, and so forth as people are looking for opportunities to connect with one another and to create memorable experiences. We have also seen concepts that pair “grab-and-go” with specialty retail goods, rather than traditional eat-in dining options. Chefs opening bakeries/provision shops/sandwich shops instead of dine-in cafes; Hotels opting for a food and beverage “pantry” instead of a proper restaurant etc.

There was an impactful legislative change in 2022 from a liquor license perspective, that for the first time permitted many applicants to obtain temporary permits while their full license applications were under review with the State Liquor Authority. We are seeing many new businesses take advantage of this change as the temporary permit option can get you open and operating within a couple of months compared to the current 6-8 month timeline for the application review process.

As a result of the tragically slow timelines to get new liquor licenses these days, many new businesses have had to get creative. Seeking out locations where you can buy an existing business and transfer the existing liquor license is ideal strategy number one. Not all locations are eligible for a temporary permit though, so please reach out to us to advise on the spaces that you are looking at.

Another strategy to start serving alcohol sooner is to apply for a beer and wine license first and then upgrade later to full liquor. You would obtain a temporary permit for beer and wine and then once you are open and operating for a while for about 6-12 months, you can seek an upgrade to full liquor. An understanding of these rules and how to work them to their advantage has helped our clients to strategize and develop concepts accordingly.

Outdoor dining is always a hot-button issue. In 2023 the NYC DOT is expected to release the new and improved program for permitting sidewalk and roadway areas. When this rolls out, your outdoor areas may no longer be compliant and you may have to redo some things. We expect there to be additional costs for the permits and filing fees as well.

Just when we thought food hall concepts were winding down, we saw a huge spike in new ones emerging in 2022 – multiple new Urbanspace locations, the Tin Building, and the Urban Hawker, to name a few. And we anticipate seeing even more of these concepts pop up in 2023, as some operators are looking for a baby-step before their own brick-and-mortar, and landlords and developers are looking to fill spaces.