Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mixed results at CB3's Liquor Licensing committee

Overall, the Committee respected community opposition to licenses:

There was community opposition to 8 applications.
The committee unconditionally denied 4 of these.
Under pressure from the committee, another 2 withdrew,
and the committee approved 2 (both transfers of existing licenses to new owners).

The 2 that were approved had only one resident speaking in opposition.

(As it happened, one of the approved licenses is owned and being sold by a member of the committee, but this was not the reason for their approval -- it's a bar on an avenue, it's had a license since the 1930's, and this was merely a transfer from one owner to another. The other approval went to an applicant opposed by the District Manager herself who lives across the street from it. So the Committee wasn't doing any favors for their District Manager.)

The committee even denied two applicants without any community opposition: one for being in a saturated area, the other for asking to upgrade with only a three month track record in the location.

All in all, responsible committee work, with the exception of Cake Shop:

The Committee approved a license for the street-level of Cake Shop, 152 Ludlow, which has been operating successfully for four years with its basement-only liquor license.

Cake Shop claims that they need the added revenue, but the Committee didn't ask for any evidence of their need. It's a troubling application. A fully active street-level bar transforms the character of the neighborhood far more than a basement bar, and this is in the heart of a seriously oversaturated nightlife destination area, Ludlow near Stanton. No residents showed up in opposition. The Committee did not even ask whether notices of their application had been properly posted.

You'd think the Committee would be more conscientious, especially since the applicant was a former employee of one of the Committee members. I don't think they showed favoritism here, just carelessness.

It may be that the applicant needs this license to stay open and continue running the artist space downstairs. But the Committee process didn't demonstrate that to this listener.

Here's the run down by address:

DENIED -- hard liquor
13 St. Mark's (applicant didn't show up)
90 Eldridge (community opposition)

DENIED -- beer/wine
441 E 12 (community opposition)
171 Ave A (oversaturated area)
40 Ave B (oversaturated & community opposition)

WITHDREW under threat of denial
46 Ave B (oversaturated area & community opposition)
60 3rd Ave (only 3 months in this location)
58 3rd Ave (community opposition & no signatures of support)

151 2nd Ave (no community opposition)
308 6th St (no community opposition)
152 Ludlow (no community opposition)
34 Ave A (despite one voice in opposition)
269 E Houston (despite one voice in opposition)

191 Houston (no community opposition)
250 Broome (no community opposition)
144 Division (with a community agreement)
77 E 10th (with a community agreement)
35 E B'way (no community opposition)

I arrived late at the meeting, so I missed
Bowery Hotel,
Katra (217 Bowery),
Spur Tree (76 Orchard),
Compas (86 Orchard),
Samburger (33 St. Mark's)


Al said...

So it seems that the CB is listening to it's constituents, and it seems that some people are speaking up. The more power people discover they have, the more likely they are to use it. This is all good!

However, one thing that bothers me is the idea that the SLA can override the CB. Is this true? Can someone who is denied at the CB level later be approved by the SLA?

Do you have any information on how often the SLA overrides a CB denial for a license?

rob said...

The SLA used to override the CB regularly. The CB's role is advisory. This is one of the great dangers in organizing against a liquor license. People think they've won at the CB level and fail to follow up at the SLA where the license is awarded.

The SLA is compelled to approve any beer/wine license that meets the standard of the law. They can look for inconsistencies in the application, but if everything is in order, they will approve.

Hard liquor licenses are a different story. The applicant is required to demonstrate "public benefit" of the license. No one knows what "public benefit" means, but it is interpreted to be inconsistent with public detriment, so if residents can demonstrate harm, the SLA is empowered to deny the application.

In the case of a hard liquor license application (called op=on premises), the community and the Community Board are mentioned in the law as part of the process. But final determination rests in the hands of the three SLA commissioners.

Jill said...

How can we find out when the licenses are up for discussion with the SLA? Is it the same process, we have to go to those meetings too? Where are they held? How do we find out?

I've gone to their website and it is either woefully out of date or poorly organized because I can never find anything I'm looking for on it.

rob said...

Their calendar/agenda for the immediately upcoming meetings should be accurate. You can call the office of their executive director. That office has been helpful in the past, although the Ex Dir himself just left.

The SLA holds special hearings for hard liquor applications in saturated areas -- the "500-foot" hearings (triggered if the applicant's location is within 500 feet of three other hard liquor licenses).

These are held at 125th Street & Lenox Ave., usually around 11am.

Beer/wine licenses come up at full SLA meetings. If there has not been a 500-foot hearing, residents may testify at the full SLA meeting.

Anonymous said...

you should definitely attend manhattan community board 3 SLA committee meetings.

check their website for their calendar. you can also make complaints on their website, though you should first be calling 311 to make complaints.

Anonymous said...

the cb 3 agenda also list the liquor license applicants. check their website

Carolyne said...

Thanks for this fabulous site and hese great updates. I am rarely able to attend CB meetings but would like to have had a voice in the Liquor Licensing meetings. Is there another way to make my community opposition known to them?