by Mac Gipson, ABC Board Administrator
A recent complaint sent to the ABC Board’s Mobile district
office has generated some interest; not because of the issue, but because of a
misunderstanding of the law.
complaint. A citizen alerted our Licensing and Compliance staff that a couple
of restaurants in downtown Mobile were openly serving alcohol on a public
sidewalk. Our staff responded by informing the licensees in that area that
selling and serving alcohol “outside” of the licensed premises was illegal and
could not continue. The offenders then
called city officials and the media claiming that the ABC Board was no longer
allowing people to consume alcohol outdoors.
This simply is not the case.
here, the only issue here, is that a licensee cannot sell and/or serve alcohol
“outside” of his or her licensed premises. Open-air areas, including patios,
are routinely approved as part of the licensed premises. In fact, when a licensee petitions the ABC
Board for permission to sell alcohol, they are required to describe in great
detail the parameters of their premises. An ABC Licensing and Compliance inspector then
verifies the information in person. If the parameters change, then the licensee
must file an amended application. In this instance, the restaurants had placed tables and
chairs on a public right-of-way (sidewalk) and were serving alcohol in an area
that was not covered by their license. This clearly is a violation. The
restaurants then tried to declare that the sidewalk is part of their licensed
premises. This can be done, but only if the licensee amends his or her
description of the premises and files that with the ABC Board, which they did
To be perfectly clear, the ABC Board has in no way taken
the position that alcoholic beverages could not be served outdoors or on
patios. Furthermore, The ABC Board has
in no way taken the position that alcohol could not be sold on sidewalk patios (if
that area is properly under the control of the person selling the beverages). Sidewalk
patios are permissable in Alabama and merely require the proper licensing and
the appropriate land usage approval by local governing authorities.
In an attempt to clear up any further confusion, please
see the applicable regulations and explanations below:
All sales and service of
alcoholic beverages by an ABC Board retail licensee shall be made within the
interior of buildings situated upon the licensed premises, except as provided
in ABC Board Regulation 20-X-6-.07.
Service of Alcoholic Beverages on Patios or Around Swimming Pool Areas
Any ABC Board on-premises licensee
may service alcoholic beverages as authorized by their license on patios or
around swimming pool areas adjacent to or connected with the main licensed
premises. Said serving area shall be located so as not to be a nuisance nor
readily visable from a church or school premises.
These regulations in no way
state that licensees may not serve on a patio. To the contrary, it is clearly
stated that they may. The only requirement is that the patio must be part of
their licensed premises. During the application process, an applicant provides
us with documents showing the right to use the property and describe the area
that is covered by the license. Any time that the originally-licensed premises
changes, such as the addition of a patio, the licensee must notify the ABC
Board and provide documents, if appropriate. In a case where a portion of a
public sidewalk is being used as a patio, a use agreement between the city and
the licensee must be provided to the ABC Board. Licensees must clearly define the
patio as part of the licensed premises. The rights and responsbilities of the
license apply to every area of the licensed premises.
words, restaurants can:
* Serve alcohol outdoors – If the restaurant’s licensed
premises clearly includes the serving area. However, public rights-of-way are
controlled by the City, which means the City would have to enter into an
agreement with the licensee, giving them control of that portion of the sidewalk. That
agreement would need to be provided to the ABC Board, along with an
illustration defining the premises. The licensee assumes the liability.
* Sell and serve alcohol on an outdoor patio – If the
restaurant’s licensed premises clearly includes the patio. The licensee has the
responsibility of controlling access to the patio and the boundaries of the
patio must be clearly identified.
* Allow alcohol in open containers to be removed from the
licensed premises – If the City has enacted an ordinance that recognizes and
specifies a geographical area of town, known as an “entertainment district”.
And they can’t:
* Sell or serve alcohol to a person who is deemed to already be
“overserved” or to any person under the age of 21.
* Serve alcohol on a public sidewalk or parking lot – unless
the licensee has obtained permission from the municipality and the ABC Board
recognizes the public portion of the service area to be part of the licensed
* Serve alcohol on a patio or outside the walls of the licensed
premises – unless the licensee has petitioned the ABC Board and/or filed an
amended application that includes the patio or outdoor area of their “licensed
instance where we responded to city officials or to media inquiries, we made it
clear that the ABC Board was in no way trying to end the practice of consuming
alcohol outdoors. However, the ABC Board is charged in Title 28, Code of Alabama, as amended, with enforcing state alcohol
If a licensee is unsure whether an action is a violation
of his/her license, then he/she should contact us prior to engaging in that
action. The Alabama ABC Board encourages
licensees to contact their district office or the central office with any
questions they may have or to better understand applicable alcohol laws.
We stand ready to advise and otherwise help our
licensees sell and serve alcohol legally and responsibly.