Expediter Challenges ‘Attorney Certification’ program

A veteran New York liquor license expediter will appear before the governing body of the state liquor authority on Nov. 10, 2021, to press his case that an 12-year-old program to reduce a backlog of applications violates the state Constitution and illegally treats applicants who hire lawyers differently than those who cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars more to “cut the line” at the agency.

“That’s what the program does: It lets applicants of means cut the line merely because they hire attorneys to certify that their applications are complete and accurate,” said John Springer, 57, a Long Island-based licensing consultant since 2009. “There is no legal authority for the New York State Liquor Authority to fast track certain applications at the expense of others. The SLA bypassed the required rulemaking process. It is time to pull the plug on this illegal, discriminatory scheme that isn’t even working.”

Springer, a former Port Jefferson, NY, bar owner, filed a request for a “declaratory ruling” READ THE FULL TEXT with the agency pursuant to the state Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA). Specifically, Springer asked the Authority to identify the statutory predicate that the agency believes permits the program. Although the agency is not required to issue such rulings, the three-member governing board has placed Springer’s request on its Nov. 10, 2021 agenda.

“I fully expect the agency to claim it has the discretion to treat attorney certified applications differnently than non-certified applicants,” said Springer, a non-lawyer consultant who has represented thousands of bars, restaurants, liquors stores, grocery stores, manufacturers and wholesalers. “If that happens, I will just head over to Supreme Court and seek judicial review. Agencies that enforce rules and laws must be held accountable for failing to follow rules and laws.”

Under the program, applications for retail licenses to sell alcohol currently take 20-25 weeks to be processed. Applications certified by applicants’ attorneys to be complete and accurate are reviewed four to eight weeks sooner that non-certified applications filed on the same day. “State law gives agencies specific powers. The SLA was never authorized to outsoure its licensing applications to attorneys,” Springer said. “Some New York City attorneys are gouging clients by charging $3,000-$5,000 extra just to sign a piece of paper. How can that possibly be in the public interest?”

The members of the liquor authority meets at 10 a.m. on the ground floor of the Alfred E. Smith State Office Building at 80 S. Swan St., Albany. In addition to the legal issues raised by Springer, the agency invited the public to offer comments about whether the program should be continued.