The mandatory 45-day halt to alcohol sales for bars that lose their liquor licenses has been removed from SB 235. The bill, which was introduced in January by Senator Bill Ferguson (D-46th), was initially intended to make liquor license revocation a “tangible penalty” by requiring revokees to stop selling alcohol for 45 days before they could obtain a stay.
“We removed the 45-day restriction as a matter of compromise and to avoid questions of compensation for the licensee’s lost wages should the revocation ultimately be overturned,” said Ferguson.
The amended bill now requires no mandatory halt in alcohol sales, but it does take the power away from the Liquor Board to grant a stay.
Currently, when bars have their liquor licenses revoked by the Board of Liquor License Commissioners, the board grants a stay on its decision as soon as the revokee appeals to the Circuit Court.
The stay, or postponement, enables the bars to remain open pending their appeal—typically for three or four months—for business as usual.
Under the amended legislation, only the court in which the appeal is filed (the Circuit Court) will be able to grant a stay on the board’s decision.
Revokees could file for an appeal right away, but obtaining the stay is no longer automatic and could take longer.
“By removing the board’s ability to stay a decision, the court hearing the appeal is more quickly engaged in the final resolution of the case. Should the licensee delay in filing an appeal, the board’s decision is valid, and the licensee is not permitted to serve alcohol on the premise,” Ferguson explained.
“Lastly, circuit courts are better suited to make a decision to grant or deny a stay of a Liquor Board decision,” he added. “These courts oversee these legal questions
much more regularly than the Liquor Board and have a greater degree of expertise on the matter.”
The timeline would be at the discretion of the judges.
“The appeal could be filed the same day, and theoretically the stay could be granted that same day,” Ferguson said. “Realistically, it likely would be a day or two before the court made a ruling on the stay.”
“The importance of this, though, is that the stay determination gets the court hearing the appeal in the issue more quickly,” said Ferguson.
“It’s hard to say, because each case is so fact specific,” Ferguson said.
The amended bill will be introduced on Wednesday.
The legislative session ends on Monday, April 8.
by Danielle Sweeney