Do you have a food truck, or other mobile food concept and wish to sell alcohol? Louisiana regulations make it difficult to carve out this niche.
What does the law say?
Title 26 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes is the home for information relating to statewide permitting requirements. There are four types of Class A retail liquor permits, two of which – the Class A-General permit, and Class A-Restaurant permit – are relevant to this question.
Unfortunately for food trucks and other mobile food and beverage concepts, both of these permits, in essence, require that the applicant have an immovable business premise in order to qualify for licensing. For example, Class A-General permits, otherwise referred to as “Bar” Permits, require that the business “be able to accommodate a minimum of 25 patrons and contain no less than three hundred seventy-five square feet of public habitable floor area.” La. R.S. § 23:71.1(1)(g). Similarly, Class A-Restaurant Permits require that the restaurant establishment “[have] a public habitable floor area of no less than five hundred square feet.” La. R.S. § 23:73(C)(1)(e).
Certainly, no food truck, cart, or mobile tap room is going to satisfy the square footage requirements set forth in those statutes.
Are there any circumstances under which the sale of alcohol out of a mobile unit might be allowed?
The short answer – yes. If, like me, you have seen or even patronized a mobile unit selling alcohol in and around New Orleans, you may be wondering how these folks manage to operate. It is likely that the operators of these of mobile units you've seen are operating under either a Class A- Caterer's permit, or a Special Events permit. Though these two licenses are distinct, they allow, in certain circumstances, the service of alcohol via a mobile or non-permanent set-up.
Caterer's permits are issued in two situations. The first, allows holders of Class A-General and Class A-Restaurant permits to sell and serve alcohol, on a temporary basis, at an event other than one at the brick-and-mortar premises for which the regular permit is issued. The second situation allows the issuance of permits to businesses that do not otherwise qualify for a Class A-General or Class A-Restaurant permits but operate a fully equipped kitchen where food is prepared for the purpose of catering functions. In both cases the permit holder can only cater events in an area in which the sale of alcohol has been authorized, and with permission of the local governing authority.
On the other hand, Special Events Permits are issued for events, held at any location, where alcohol is served as an incidental part of the event for payment rendered or as part of a general admission or other type of fee. For these special events, ATC will issue a special, temporary retail alcoholic beverage permit for the duration of up to three consecutive days. Additionally, a maximum of twelve Special Events permits may be issued to any one person, partnership, corporation, or entity within a calendar year.
The statutes and regulations pertaining to Caterer's permits and Special Events permits can be found respectively in Title 55 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes, and Title 55 § VII of the Louisiana Administrative Code.
So, what does all this mean?
If you have a mobile food and beverage concept, or would like to add mobile opportunities to your currently existing business, you may be able to obtain a permit to sell alcoholic beverages from them mobile unit, IF:
- You hold Class-A General or Class-A Restaurant permit and want to temporarily sell at an event located away from the brick-and mortar restaurant for which the regular permit is issued;
- You own a catering company and wish to sell alcoholic beverages at your events; or
- You apply for a Special Events permit, but remember, these are limited in duration and frequency.
Questions? Contact the Business Law Group.
If you would like to learn more about liquor licensing, or would like some assistance with the licensing application process, please don't hesitate to contact our team today. Call (504) 934-2020 to get started.