Board 3 gets tough with S.L.A.

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Since the State Liquor Authority has turned a deaf ear to their noise complaints, Community Board 3 will stop hearing applications for liquor licenses in parts of the East Village and the Lower East Side, board members said this week.

At a C.B. 3 State Liquor Authority Committee meeting on Monday, board members passed a resolution that would automatically reject liquor license applications from clubs, bars and restaurants in what they call over-saturated sections of the neighborhood. Although the board had blacklisted 11 locations where it identified many liquor-licensed premises, it currently reviews applications from all areas of the community and makes recommendations to the State Liquor Authority in an advisory capacity.

Under the new proposal, the board would no longer review new liquor license applications or applications that would expand the extent of existing licenses from establishments in an expanded blacklist area. Instead, C.B. 3 officials would send a letter to the liquor authority whenever they receive an application from an over-saturated area, stating that the board flatly denies the application without review.

“It’s trying to tell the S.L.A. the same thing in new ways,” said Alexandra Militano, chairperson of the S.L.A. Committee.

By stonewalling liquor license applications from certain areas, the community hopes to send the S.L.A. the message that it is tired of the problems liquor establishments bring to their neighborhood. Residents’ quality of life complaints include drunk, shouting patrons and bass vibrations from sound systems that shake their apartments and prevent sleep.

Some blocks have substantially more than a handful of licensed premises. The S.L.A. has a so-called 500-ft. rule, whereby representatives from an establishment seeking a liquor license within a 500-ft. radius of more than three other licensed premises must appear before a public hearing and describe how the public will benefit from a new venue. Community members say the S.L.A. largely ignores their pleas at these hearings.

Sixth St. between Avenues A and B has seven licensed premises, according to C.B. 3.

“It’s been terrible,” said Niev Duffy, a resident of the block. “It’s been so deleterious to my health that I’ve paid money to stay elsewhere where I can sleep.”

The expanded blacklist areas are as follows: Sixth St. between Avenues A and B, Ludlow St. between Houston and Delancey Sts., St. Mark’s Pl. between First Ave. and Avenue A, 12 St. Mark’s Pl., Clinton St. between Houston and Rivington Sts., Avenue A between Houston and 14th Sts., Rivington St. between Norfolk and Orchard St., Avenue C between Houston and 14th Sts., First Ave. between First and Second Sts., Orchard St. between Houston and Rivington Sts., and St. Mark’s Pl. between Second and Third Aves.

Some community members expressed concern about the board’s proposal. One resident of the East Village who attended the meeting said it was important for bar, club and restaurant owners to appear before the community board to be held accountable for their business operations. Even though the board’s recommendations are not legally enforceable, the “finger-wagging” from community leaders serves a useful purpose, said the resident, who requested anonymity, after the meeting.

The S.L.A. Committee chairperson had argued during the meeting that it was advisable for the board to shift strategies within the limited parameters of its authority.

“Our hands are sort of tied as to what we can do,” Militano said.

“I think you sell yourself short. This body does have respect,” countered the East Village man who requested anonymity.

J. Mark Anderson, S.L.A. spokesperson, said that state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control laws mandate that the community be notified whenever an on-premise liquor license application is pending. The law also provides for community review, but such input is not obligatory, Anderson said.

“That’s their business,” Anderson said about C.B. 3’s proposal. “If they elect not to [comment], we can’t make them comply. We certainly welcome and value any input.”

Some cheered the board’s new protest strategy.

“It’s a victory for the community,” said one woman at the end of the discussion.

The S.L.A. Committee resolution will come before the full board for a vote at its Feb. 24 meeting.