Liquor Permit for NY Events

Having produced hundreds of events over the past 10 years, when liquor permits come up in locations where alcohol is not always served (i.e. they don't have a liquor license), I always get questions from clients. And further, if they have a sponsor or partner providing free alcohol to help offset the bill, it gets even more confusing!  

Thanks to Robert Severini and BizBash, here's a quick cheat sheet for everyone to review. The donation piece, still gets a little tricky, especially because distributors are involved, but at least this helps navigate the rules a bit better.

A Quick Guide in Helping You Define "Liquor License" vs. "Liquor Permit" for New York Events

Another question that I am asked about often is; "can you provide me with a Liquor Permit for my upcoming event!?" So here are some quick points to avoid future confusion, and additional last minute costs!

Disclaimer: this is merely a guide, based on my direct dealings with the NYSLA for nearly a decade. Everyone should constantly check their website for any updates that that may have been recently listed;


As I sit here waiting for the infamous "Friday Night Happy Hour" to kick-off (much needed for many of us Workaholics); I am reminded of all those people who have recently called for last minute "Liquor Permit Applications." Many of these recent phone calls were from Fashion Week clients. Many people seem to be misinformed on how the Liquor Distributors and Venues through-out New York operate; based on the laws governed by the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA). Here is a quick guide to help inform you of the basics on securing a One Day Liquor Permit (full details can be found here):

  • "Liquor License" is associated with a business' address and lasts two years (most of you would be familiar with restaurants and bars)
  • "Liquor Permit" is a temporary (usually 1-day) document allowing alcoholic products to be brought onto a commercial property that doesn't (or on rare occasions does) have a Liquor License associated with it
  • Beer and Wine Permits - do not require a Liquor License to apply; however, the NYSLA only releases FOUR permits per year at each address


The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law limits the number of Temporary Beer & Wine permits that can be issued for a location to four (4) permits during a 12 month period


The most popular, and easiest to obtain; although not the cheapest...

Caterers' Permit - as caterers, their Liquor License allows them to apply for One DayCaterer's Permits for all of their events that take place on commercial properties, in which the caterers are bringing alcohol onto. Some rules of thumb for acquire such a permit:


  • Applications are supposed to be received by the NYSLA 15-days prior to the event date; sometimes flexible, but not always
  • A Landlord or Property Manager must sign off, and acknowledge that alcohol will be coming on to their property
  • Floor Diagrams listing entrance(s)/exit(s), restroom(s) and bar location(s) are mandatory
  • The local NYPD Precinct is fully informed that said address will have alcohol on property, during said date and time
  • Liquor Permits are per actual bar, per day; not just covering the entire address
  • Copies of the Full Menu are to be provided, as well as served at the event


Food must be provided by applicant (caterer)/licensee, meeting the minimum requirements under §64‐a of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, for example: salads, soups, sandwiches, finger foods. Pretzels and potato chips do not meet the minimum requirements for food.


  • Caterer's Bartenders to serve said alcohol, because their Liquor License is attached to their Liquor Liability Insurance
  • Safety Protocol Listed; no serving minors, no serving intoxicated persons, etc...
  • Caterer to provide all alcohol. However, Charitable Donations require said permit, in order to release said donation, from the Distributors, to the address listed on the Liquor Permit. This doesn't include donations coming from individuals, retail shoppes, or similar.


One last note to consider: caterer's Liquor License is associated to EVERY Liquor Permit they apply for. So are all of the liabilities associated with each event. No business owner is going to risk losing their Liquor License, to do you a "favor." Just some food for thought! Keep sharing the knowledge!

Hoping that this short outline was something that helped clarify some of the finer details of how, and why venues operate when alcohol is being brought on to their properties. Please feel free to reach out directly, should you have any additional questions. Also, I highly suggest sharing this information with others, as I have been getting calls around this, one to three times per week, for the past eight plus years.

Robert A. Severini

"Drink the good wine first"

Click here for article source