For nearly three months now, a special committee formed by the New York State Liquor Authority has been addressing what was a backlog of roughly 6,000 applications.

Since its formation in late November, the SLA says the committee has reviewed 272 applications. The committee has approved 67 so far and 61 failed to meet program criteria which requires that applications do not face opposition or involve complex or controversial issues. Another 144 are pending approval upon receipt of additional information or conditions met by the applicants.

Tully Rinckey attorney Ryan McCall said while there is a lot of work left, the plan itself is progress.

"I commend the state Liquor Authority for coming up with this idea as I think it's going to be a great thing that can move a lot of these simpler applications forward," McCall said.

The state Liquor Authority said the committee, comprised of executive team and licensing staff, from all three zone offices, started work immediately. However, its first priority was to develop standard operating procedures including:

  • Determining criteria for eligibility
  • Developing a straightforward checklist for Committee staff
  • Developing training for staff
  • Creating a dedicated email to communicate with qualifying applicants
  • Establishing procedures for tracking and reporting on applications
  • And creating "conditional" and "final" approval letters

"It wouldn't surprise me for this to be something that turns around very quickly. New York State Liquor Authority is one of the fastest adapting New York state agencies in the sense of they're able to really deal with problems quickly when they have to," McCall said.

The authority said with training complete, six examiners and three supervisors in Albany and Buffalo, and four examiners and one supervisor in New York City, have been reviewing applications since Jan. 10. The committee is using a checklist for applications that serve alcohol on-premise to streamline the process.

It is finalizing another checklist for reviewing grocery store applications and checklists for other application types currently being developed. It said as staff continue to become more familiar with the new process, the number of daily reviews will continue to increase at a "brisk rate."

The committee was authorized for six months. The SLA is also reorganizing its Licensing Bureau to sustain a faster review process for the long term.

The full board also meets Tuesday where it will consider some licensing and disciplinary items.