Walter Haverfield Attorney

John N. Neal

  • Partner
    Liquor Control Law Chair
  • Cleveland Direct: 216.619.7866
  • Cleveland Fax: 216.916.2432

Overview

John N. Neal focuses his practice on Ohio state and federal liquor permit licensing, and the licensing of Ohio’s new medical marijuana industry. At the same time, Mr. Neal has developed a diverse set of legal skills with complex commercial litigation, employment law, business organizations, insurance coverage, real estate, and corporate transactions. As such, he has been retained as outside general counsel by companies who need same-day answers on a variety of issues. Having previously founded his own law firm, Mr. Neal understands businesses from an insider’s perspective.

First and foremost, Mr. Neal counsels companies and individuals on the intricacies of Ohio’s regulation of the liquor industry, including representation of liquor manufacturers, distributors, state liquor agencies, and retail permit holders. These services include transactional representation between buyers and sellers of liquor permits, obtaining liquor permits through the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, negotiating the transfer of permits, and litigating violations before the Ohio Liquor Control Commission and the courts. Clients of these services include independent restaurants, breweries, distilleries, wineries, professional sports teams, hotel and restaurant chains, supermarkets, real estate developers, concessionaires, and large public venues such as concert theaters and stadiums. Continuing on with the practice established by Eugene Stevens, Mr. Neal provides valuable and experienced representation in this technical area of the law.

Mr. Neal is often retained to appear before the Ohio Liquor Control Commission to appeal the non-renewal or rejection of a retail permit holder’s liquor permit after the permit holder has lost it upon an objection by a city or township. He has successfully obtained the reversal of such rejections in numerous high profile and contentious cases.

In addition to liquor licensing, Mr. Neal has worked on the drafting and implementation of the November 2016 state of Ohio constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, backed by the Washington D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. That initiative creates the Ohio Division of Medical Marijuana, which shall be implemented and administered in conjunction with the Ohio Division of Liquor Control. Mr. Neal is on the forefront of counseling individuals and businesses on obtaining the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, distribution, and retailer medical marijuana licenses in this brand new industry in Ohio.

While becoming one of the handful of attorneys in Ohio who has a full-time liquor permitting and medical marijuana licensing practice, Mr. Neal has maintained an active commercial litigation practice, and has significant bench and jury trial experience, particularly in shareholder and trade disputes. His understanding of both litigation dynamics and business transactions allow him to offer comprehensive business planning and risk management counsel. This is particularly the case for clients in the food and beverage industry.

Mr. Neal is rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbell®, the highest professional rating available to attorneys, as determined anonymously by local attorneys and judges. In addition, Mr. Neal’s clients have rated him a 5.0 out of 5.0 for his legal services on Martindale-Hubbell. In regard to one commercial litigation matter, a client wrote, “John exceeds expectations, his attention to detail and quality of work are exceptional. John worked tirelessly on our case and consistently went above and beyond his duties. We would recommend John Neal to other potential clients without hesitation.”

Experience

Commercial Litigation
  • Tried a trade secrets case to successful plaintiff’s jury verdict in Ohio state court over three weeks involving over 30 called witnesses.
  • Obtained sanctions twice against defendant in trade secrets claim in United States District Court, first requiring payment of the client’s attorney’s fees by the defendant for its discovery misconduct, and second, obtaining an adverse jury instruction for defendant’s failure to preserve evidence.
  • Handled all litigation, plaintiff and defense, for mid-sized label manufacturing client in Northeast Ohio, including UCC claims for non-conforming goods and breach of contract over customized goods.
  • Defended breach of contract, fraud, and accounting claim brought by member of restaurant group against majority member, and effectuating buyout of minority members after positive case disposition.
  • Retained as corporate counsel overseeing insurance defense appointed counsel, including trucking cases involving permanent injuries and death.
  • Obtained dismissal of all claims by a home builder against an oil and gas developer over property rights, and sustained the dismissal before Ohio’s Ninth District Court of Appeals.
  • Defended a credit union against claims by joint account holders over UCC banking regulation claims, and sustained summary judgment dismissal before Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals.
  • Litigated insurance coverage dispute cases to summary judgment dismissal over policy construction and interpretation as a matter of law.
  • Counseled restaurant group client on defending trademark claims brought against it by competing restaurant group challenging use of name.
Corporate Transactions
  • Retained to act as outside general counsel for restaurant groups and mid-sized manufacturing clients, effectuating member/shareholder buy-outs, entity organizational changes, asset purchases/sales, and employee matters.
  • Structuring entity to make application for the anticipated licenses under the November 2016 state of Ohio constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
  • Engaged for new business start-up organization, planning, shareholder/member agreements, and private financing procurement.
  • Retained to negotiate leases, for developers and tenants, involving restaurants, hotels, and other entertainment facilities.
  • Negotiates and effectuates purchase of numerous Ohio liquor agency stores, particularly for grocery store clients.
  • Structures officer and manager compensation agreements for small and mid-sized companies.
  • Retained by developers to advise on state and federal licensing concerns prior to construction so as to take best advantage of liquor licensing regulations, including community entertainment districts and outdoor refreshment areas.
  • Effectuates asset purchases involving chain business, from hotels, restaurants, and convenience stores, followed by securing all licensure required by transaction.
Liquor Control Law
  • Processed over a thousand new and transfer liquor permit applications with the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.
  • Maintains first-name familiarity with all regulators in the various sections of the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, including the superintendent’s office, licensing, investigations and compliance, beer and wine, agency operations, temporary permit section, and renewal sections.
  • Participated in the structuring and drafting of the November 2016 state of Ohio constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in the state, as submitted by Ohioans for Medical Marijuana (OMM), with the support of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.
  • Counsels individuals and businesses on obtaining medical marijuana licenses in brand new Ohio marijuana industry.
  • Formed community entertainment districts in the state of Ohio, including Cleveland’s Flats District and Uptown District.
  • Expedited a Cleveland permit transfer from start to finish in seven days, after the client’s business had been forced to close its doors due to a prior failed permit transfer.
  • Reinstated a liquor permit that had been non-renewed and subsequently cancelled five days later by obtaining an emergency hearing before the Ohio Liquor Commission.
  • Interaction and coordination with Ohio’s liquor compliance officers, to negotiate solutions to compliance problems in lieu of the permit holder obtaining a permit citation.
  • Acts as outside general counsel to restaurant groups, answering everyday questions on liquor law and risk matters.
  • Won local options votes, to “wet” a location for liquor sales, including Sunday sales.
  • Negotiated sponsorship agreement for beverage manufacturer and professional sports team.
  • Negotiated a licensing agreement for national concessionaire at a professional sports venue.
  • Litigates claims where a tenant was obligated to transfer a liquor permit to a new tenant, but refused to comply with the contract.
  • Defeated a municipality’s objection to the renewal of a business’s liquor permit for four consecutive years until municipality conceded.
Litigation Services
  • Manages litigation and risk assessment decision making for restaurant groups and manufacturing clients, including employee matters, contract/trade disputes with suppliers, vendors, and customers.
  • Tried a plaintiff’s claim against a contractor to a verdict, obtaining treble damages and award of attorney’s fees.
  • Defended discrimination claims brought by employees, including age, sex, race, and sexual harassment claims in state and federal courts.
  • Obtained a judgment against an Ohio city preventing it from citing a local business for alleged violations of its building, zoning, or administrative code on First Amendment grounds.
  • Files challenges to Ohio real estate tax valuations before the Board of Revision and Board of Tax Appeals, which have resulted in millions in property tax valuation savings and positive reported caselaw.
  • Defended Ohio homeowner’s association against claim brought by association member, resolving claim and revising the condo association's declaration and bylaws.
  • Brought claim on behalf of homeowner against homebuilder for fraud, resulting in defendant paying over 50% over the plaintiff’s compensatory damages during jury selection process.

Recognition

  • Rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbell®
  • Richard A. and Brandon S. Collier Award

Articles

Presentations

  • October 29, 2015, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, Legal and Practical Advice in Planning Compliant Events (in partnership with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association)
  • September 23, 2014, SPACES gallery, The "Events" Event. Legal and Practical Advice for Arts Organizations in Planning Compliant Events (in partnership with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, and Community Partnership for Arts and Culture)

Associations

  • National Association of Alcoholic Beverage Licensing Attorneys (NAABLA)
  • National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA)
  • Ohio State Bar Association
  • Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
  • American Bar Association

Podcasts

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