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How to Make a Liquor License Complaint

The State Liquor Authority (SLA) Enforcement Bureau investigates violations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Law. Per their protocols: in the absence of documented violations or complaints, licensees are assumed to be in good standing, and single-source quality of life complaints are generally insufficient to warrant action. However, if a pattern of unresolved community concerns exists, the Community Board may issue a memo to the SLA to request adjustments to the license parameters.

If you have concerns about a particular bar, restaurant or club near you, there are several steps you can take to try to resolve the situation.

Keep a detailed log of your concerns.
Write down what you are concerned about, using as much detail as possible. Also record the date and time. Do this each time the issue comes up so that you can establish a pattern of problematic activity.

Collect photo, video or audio evidence of your concern.
Physical documentation is necessary to prove that a potential violation occurred. Do your best to take clear photos and videos. It is also helpful to describe what you are capturing.

Reach out to the establishment directly about your concern.
Members of the public who have complaints about an operator are encouraged to first review NYC laws, then contact their neighbor directly to request specific remedies or participation in free City Mediation. Most operators strive to be good neighbors and will try to resolve concerns in the moment. When you speak to the operator, share the evidence you’ve collected and be specific about what you are concerned about. Take note of who you spoke with and when you spoke with them.

File a complaint with 311.
If the operator does not appropriately resolve your concern, document it by contacting the city’s 311 system using their smartphone app (recommended), online, or by phone. Record the 311 complaint reference number. While authorities are required to respond to a 311 complaint, they may not be able to get there in time to see the problem condition. If an immediate response is required, call 911 instead.

File a complaint with the State Liquor Authority (SLA).
After documenting your concern with 311, also file a complaint with the State Liquor Authority (SLA). The SLA is an enforcement agency and can issue fines or violations for establishments that don’t adhere to their liquor license. The agency also considers complaints when approving or renewing liquor licenses.

Contact the community board office and local elected officials.
Be sure to update the community board office periodically and relay reference numbers for 311 complaints you’ve filed. When reviewing applications, we rely on our database of information on an establishment, including the history of complaints. You can also contact the offices of your elected officials.