200 Foot Rule

THE ABC’S OF NEW YORK’S ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE LAW:
THE 200 FOOT RULE

WHAT IS THE 200 FOOT RULE?

Pursuant to the New York Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (ABC), the State Liquor Authority (SLA) is prohibited from issuing liquor licenses to establishments “on the same street or avenue and within 200 feet of a building occupied exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or other place of worship.” Proposed premises on a corner lot are considered to be on both streets, regardless of the location of the door(s). Unlike in the case of the 500-Foot Rule, the SLA has no discretion over the issuance of a license for a location subject to the 200 Foot Rule.

Although the ABC Law clearly states that the only schools and places of worship that trigger the 200 Foot Rule are those within 200 feet of the applicant’s premises, the SLA asks the applicant to provide the names, addresses, and distances of all schools and places of worship within 300 feet of the premises. In many instances, the SLA will send an investigator to measure the distance from the school or church to the door of the proposed establishment. For this reason, it is often advisable for the applicant to employ the services of a surveyor to take the required measurements – in some cases, this independent survey provides a basis to challenge the SLA’s measurements.

WHAT IS EXCLUSIVE USE?

Pursuant to the 200 Foot Rule, a building occupied as a place of worship does not cease to be “exclusively” occupied as a place of worship by incidental uses that are not of a nature to detract from the predominant character of the building as a place of worship. Therefore, the SLA uses a “primary use” standard to determine the building’s purpose. This means that so long as the school or place of worship is primarily used for that purpose, and incidental uses fall within the Rule, then the school or place of worship is used “exclusively” for as a school or place of worship under the statute.

In 2007, the 200 Foot Rule was amended to clarify what uses were to be considered incidental to the primary use as a place of worship. Functions considered incidental include, but are not limited to:

  • The conduct of legally authorized games of bingo or other games of chance held as a means of raising funds for the not-for-profit religious organization which conducts services at the place of worship or for other not-for-profit organizations or groups;

  • Use of the building for fund-raising performances by or benefitting the not-for-profit religious organization which conducts services at the place of worship or other not-for-profit organizations or groups;

  • The use of the building by other religious organizations or groups for religious services or other purposes;

  • The conduct of social activities by or for the benefit of the congregants;

  • The use of the building for meetings held by organizations or groups providing bereavement counseling to persons having suffered the loss of a loved one, or providing advice or support for conditions or diseases including, but not limited to, alcoholism, drug addiction, cancer, cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, or Alzheimer's disease;

  • The use of the building for blood drives, health screenings, health information meetings, yoga classes, exercise classes or other activities intended to promote the health of the congregants or other persons; and

  • Use of the building by non-congregant members of the community for private social functions.

Furthermore, the statute notes that the building occupied as a place of worship does not violate the exclusivity provision of the 200 Foot Rule where the not-for profit religious organization occupying the place of worship accepts the payment of funds to defray costs related to another party's use of the building.

MEASURING DOOR TO DOOR

To determine whether the proposed premise is within 200 feet of a school or place of worship, you must measure door to door. Specifically, you must measure in a straight line from the proposed premise’s main entrance to school or place of worship’s nearest routinely used entrance on the same street. What constitutes an “entrance” is its regularity of use by the public. Doors used predominantly by employees and staff, and emergency exits are should not be used in the measurement.

EXCEPTIONS TO THE 200 FOOT RULE

The 200 Foot Rule does not apply to:

  • Licensed establishments in operation since December 5, 1933;
  • Grandfathered locations, i.e. premises licensed before the school or place of worship existed; and
  • Theaters operated by a not-for-profit organization.

To schedule an initial consultation regarding your liquor license application, please contact us through our Online Contact Form, by email: mjp@rudnerpaleudis.com, or by phone: (212) 835-6768 in New York City, (215) 331-6487 in Philadelphia, or (609) 480-3080 in Princeton, New Jersey.