Law May Help Close Troublesome Bars

Senator Daniel L. SquadronState Senator Daniel L. Squadron, with constituents this summer, co-sponsored a recently enacted law that can help close troublesome nightspots.

There’s a new weapon to close down noisy and violent bars. At Tuesday’s Community Council meeting, Daniel L. Squadron, a Democratic state senator for the 25th District, which includes the East Village, discussed a new law signed by Gov. David A. Paterson just last month, designed to fight the very problems making life miserable for many locals. But for it to work, neighbors have to voice their complaints.

In an interview Wednesday, Senator Squadron told The Local East Village that with the Squadron/Schimminger Bill, signed into law on Aug. 15, the State Liquor Authority can revoke a liquor license from an establishment when police have referred six or more noise or disorder incidents to the authority within 60 days. Before the new law was enacted, liquor licenses could be revoked for repeated noise violations, but a police complaint was not considered evidence of a disturbance unless the liquor authority could show that the license holder was responsible.

Bill Koehnlein, who lives down the street from an East Village bar where a fatal shooting occurred last month, welcomes the law, but isn’t sure it will make a difference.

“I hope this law can help, but who will enforce it? Who will ascertain what is or is not an acceptable noise level?” Mr. Koehnlein said in an e-mail message.

“The SLA is primarily a revenue-generating agency, with enforcement traditionally taking a back seat, though I’m told its performance concerning neighborhood quality-of-life issues is improving,” Mr. Koehnlein said. “I’m skeptical about its willingness to enforce such a law. Note that the law would ‘allow’ the SLA to revoke a license; it does not say it ‘must.’ A provision for mandatory revocation would put much-needed teeth into this law.”

Still, he said, “Such legislation, which acknowledges that bar and club noise is a very real, political issue in New York, is welcome. Residents must work to make sure laws are enforced, and strengthened where circumstances call for more muscle.”

Senator Squadron, who co-sponsored the bill with Robin Schimminger, a New York assemblyman up for re-election in November, said it was especially important for him to attend the meeting because of the death of Mr. Thompson.

“It was a tragedy,” Senator Squadron said. “Nothing like this is ever expected.”

The senator said that police officials are currently working out guidelines for how local precincts will enforce the new law.

“The majority of liquor license establishments follow the law and don’t have issues,” the senator said. “This law will help separate those from the few that create problems.”

Senator Squadron said that opinions of residents about troublesome nightspots resonated with lawmakers.

“It sends a very strong message,” the senator said. “Hopefully this new law will create a better standard that makes it easier for communities, establishments and the police to deal with those establishments that are the biggest problems.”