Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Liquor Authority Freezes Licenses

Columbia Spectator
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Liquor Authority Freezes Licenses
By Anna Phillips
Issue date: 9/19/06 Section: News

On Sept. 6, the New York State Liquor Authority unanimously approved a ban on liquor licenses for new bars, clubs, and cabarets that are within 500 feet of three or more licensed establishments. While the license freeze will have little effect on Columbia's bar scene, for the neighbors of these bars, the decision is a blessing.

The law existed previously, but exceptions were frequently given to new bars with pending applications. For the next four months this will not be the case. During these months-which amount to a trial period-the State Liquor Authority will review its policies and study the effects.

"It shouldn't just be seen as bars being a bad thing in the city, they aren't," said Bill Crowley, spokesman for the NYSLA. "It was a chance to take a step back to look at the licensing process." Crowley was unsure of how many pending applications the freeze would affect.

While it's imposed on all of New York, the license freeze will mainly affect Lower Manhattan, where bars settle side by side like row houses.

Downtown residents "are deeply affected with the congestion of nightclubs, restaurants and bars, and all other places where liquor is sold, and that affects the quality of life," Community Board 9 Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc said, voicing support for the freeze. "We expect that at some point we may become the same target for clubs and bars and so forth, so we want to make sure that our district maintains a reasonable approach to the issue."

Uptown the effects of the freeze will be felt, but less so.Harlem's bars are well-distributed through the neighborhood and have faced separate problems obtaining liquor licenses because state law prohibits establishments from serving alcohol within 200 feet of a school or place of worship. For every bar in the Village, there may be a church in Harlem.Morningside Heights' two main arteries, Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, will not share the effects equally. The restaurants that line Broadway are unaffected by the moratorium-so long as alcohol beverages do not account for more than 30 to 45 percent of the total sales.

Amsterdam Avenue is a different case-especially the block between 108th and 109th where Lion's Head Tavern, Suite, Roadhouse, and Mona all share pavement. During the moratorium, no new bar or club can open nearby.

This makes longtime Morningside Heights resident William Porto content, if not happy.

"I'm all for ... [the moratorium], considering that there are a plethora of bars in the area. Last Friday was amazing, there were literally 40 or 50 people hanging out on the block. I was across the street. It was like party central. I thought I was down in Chelsea," he said.Porto, who has lived in the area since the 1970s, has seen the number of local bars-and noise inherent to them-increase.

The increase "is great for the students who live blocks away, but for the people who live there, it's a problem," Porto said.

Marcus Mona, the owner of Mona and Roadhouse, disagreed. "I really don't think we're anywhere near the saturation point uptown," he said.

Mona has been closed since late last Saturday due to complications in obtaining a liquor license renewal, but it's likely unrelated to the license freeze.

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