Liquor Law, Licensing, Manufacturing, and Distribution

Businesses in the liquor-related industry, established companies and start-ups alike, must navigate the complexities of compliance with liquor control authorities. 

Norris McLaughlin’s team of liquor law attorneys counsel local, regional, national, and International clients through the entire cycle of licensing, planning, and operating, as well as structuring transactions.

The intricacies of compliance with liquor laws cannot be overstated. Our attorneys are keenly aware that incomplete and erroneous submissions by clients may lead to substantial delays in official approvals, potentially causing operations to halt, leading to accrued expenses and loss of revenue. 

Members of the Norris McLaughlin team work closely with local authorities throughout the submission and licensing process to ensure that your business goals are achieved, while maintaining compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. 

Like all our clients, you are aware that the production, distribution, sale, and service of alcohol are governed by laws designed to ensure the safety of consumers, employees, and society at large. You are eager to comply and deliver your best products to your customers and enjoyable experiences to your patrons.

Who We Are

As recognized leaders in the liquor industry, the attorneys of Norris McLaughlin play an active role in setting guidelines for compliance issues with liquor authorities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey. Our lawyers helped re-write the Pennsylvania Liquor Code and Regulations to facilitate the growth of the craft beer industry in the Commonwealth, leading American Lawyer Media – publishers of the American Lawyer, National Law Journal, New Jersey Law Journal, and Legal Intelligencer – to honor the group’s chair and founder, Theodore J. Zeller III, as a “Trailblazer” for Pennsylvania liquor law.

Reflecting of our collaborative working relationships, clients describe our attorneys as knowledgeable, thoughtful, creative, and progressive. Several clients have invited us to speak at industry events, and we frequently lecture to the legal community on topics related to liquor law.

As one of our clients, you will be apprised of relevant changes to regulations and procedures by the liquor authorities through periodic communications from members of our highly responsive team. The attorneys of Norris McLaughlin regularly interact with members of the state liquor licensing authorities, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, as well as the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) in New Jersey.

Who We Help

The Norris McLaughlin liquor law team assists clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as national and international businesses. Our clients range from family-owned companies to multinational, established brands. Start-up craft breweries and liquor manufacturers, such as limited wineries and limited distilleries, seek our counsel on compliance issues and assistance securing the appropriate permits.

Large and small, single distillery and multiple breweries, chain restaurants and warehouse operators – these are the clients who rely on our professionals to guide them through the stringent requirements of multiple states and jurisdictions for safe operation and sale of their beers, liquors, and alcoholic beverages.

Our clients include:

  • Breweries
  • Beer distributors
  • Liquor distillers
  • Manufacturers
  • Restaurants, bars and hotels
  • Retail stores
  • Stadiums
  • Wholesalers
  • Wineries
  • Importers

Most of our clients are based in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; we also serve liquor businesses across the United States and internationally regarding licensing, manufacture, and distribution activities.

A representative list of our clients in this industry includes the following distinguished companies and brand names:

  • Yuengling Brewery
  • Shangy’s The Beer Authority
  • Brewers of Pennsylvania
  • Bolete
  • Grille 3501
  • Cariel Spirits
  • Allentown Symphony Association
  • Victory Brewing Company
  • North Country Brewing
  • Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
  • Manatawny Still Works
  • Sly Fox Brewing Company
  • Youell’s Oyster House
  • Paxos Restaurant Group
  • The Iron Abbey
  • ArtsQuest
  • Remy Cointreau S.A.
  • Fegley Brew Works
  • QVC
  • HSN
  • Cape May Brewing Company
  • Cape Beverage
  • Franklin Hill Vineyards
  • County Seat Spirits
  • Eight Oaks Farm Distillery

What We Do

Our representation of clients encompasses the full range of their business cycle, from start-up to growth and transfer or sale of the company. 

Operations and Licensing

For clients in the manufacturing, and distribution sector, such as large and small craft breweries, we advise on trademark, licensing and related matters. For example, we manage all aspects of federal regulatory permitting including the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and trademark filings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. 

Our attorneys regularly file Brewers Notices and applications for wineries and distilleries. We also assist clients with Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) issues and formula approval. 

Our liquor law attorneys regularly consult with our intellectual property attorneys who specialize in alcohol trademark matters. Key issues include clearance of prospective brand names to ensure they are available for use and registration, prosecution of U.S. trademark applications, and bringing and defending trademark infringement suits in the federal courts.

Clients in the retail and hospitality sector, including chain brew pub restaurants, request our services regarding all aspects of the acquisition and use of a liquor license in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These matters typically include license issuance and renewal, citation defense, transfers and purchases of licenses, and compliance with applicable liquor laws and regulations. 

In Pennsylvania, clients seek our assistance to secure all licenses issued by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (Pa.L.C.B.). 

New Jersey has three classes of liquor licenses, for manufacturing (Class A), distribution (Class B) and retail (Class C), each with specific categories of core business. Our attorneys advise on all regulatory and procedural aspects of obtaining a license from the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) or local municipality, as applicable.

Founders of start-up businesses find that our experience in the industry affords them proven insights that help to control initial costs of launching their company.

When representing breweries and wholesalers who operate in other states and nationally, licensing and non-licensing issues frequently arise. Norris McLaughlin’s attorneys are well versed in alcohol laws of individual states and often prepare and negotiate distribution agreements in compliance with local regulations. 

There is considerable variation between states regarding a combined brewery and service restaurant operation, as well as a beer franchise. Business owners must be alert to these requirements at an early stage, especially when their plans include expansion beyond the state of their original location. Our Norris McLaughlin attorneys will provide guidance to support your company’s growth.

Advising the Industry 

Through our client relationships and connections with members in all sectors of the liquor industry, we were at the forefront of creating a coalition of Pennsylvania breweries.

We represent those breweries in addressing industry concerns relating to proposed changes to beer franchise laws, including testimony before the Pennsylvania Senate Law and Justice Committee.

To keep abreast of news and developments in the industry, both legal and business, please read Legal Liquor, the Norris McLaughlin blog addressing liquor law and regulation issues.

Litigation, Arbitration, and Dispute Resolution

Thanks to our close communication with clients, Norris McLaughlin’s attorneys can frequently avoid costly and protracted litigation at an early stage. Should litigation become necessary, team members have extensive experience in county and federal court, as well as with arbitration panels, district justices, and administrative law judges. 

As lead counsel in beer franchise rights cases brought against the world’s largest brewers, and as outside general counsel to Yuengling Brewery, our record in contested matters speaks for itself.

Other litigated matters include anti-trust issues, federal trademark infringement cases, and federal environmental enforcement actions. 

On a local level, clients engage us regarding allegations of state liquor license violations, such as serving alcohol to minors, serving alcohol after hours, occupancy violations, health and safety code violations, noise violations, and nuisance bar program designations.

Related Practices

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