With Looser Beer-and-Wine Rules, C.B. 3 Hopes to Repair ‘Infamous’ Reputation

taskforceNatalie Rinn Susan Stetzer points at documents as S.L.A.
committee chair Alexandra Militano leafs through them.

Before finalizing a controversial set of stipulations that would ease Community Board 3’s stance against new beer-and-wine licenses in nightlife-heavy areas – so long as applicants agree to close shop early – a task force decided last night to seek counsel from a higher power: the State Liquor Authority.

During a meeting at C.B. 3’s offices last night, District Manager Susan Stetzer said that the board should repair a feeling that it is particularly unbending, shared by applicants and the S.L.A. alike. “We have become infamous,” she said, explaining that applicants’ lawyers approach the S.L.A. and say, “C.B. 3 has a moratorium [on new licenses in resolutions areas], and it’s illegal” – a sentiment with which S.L.A. chair Dennis Rosen agrees, according to Ms. Stetzer. “We are losing respect and clout,” she said.

As The Local has reported, the S.L.A. consistently approves applications to sell beer and wine on the neighborhood’s main bar-and-restaurant drags even when the C.B. 3 recommends otherwise due to its policy against new licenses in resolution areas. The board’s new appeal to higher-ups signals its intention to more effectively influence the S.L.A.’s final decisions in these oft-contentious cases.

Ms. Stetzer said that the board must adjust its policies to reflect a neighborhood that continues to attract more liquor licenses than ever before, regardless of resistance from neighbors. “I would recommend that this board deal with reality,” said Ms. Stetzer. “I think we should change to be effective. I think that’s how we deal with the community, and I think it’s an evolving process.”

Still, some locals fear that the new stipulations – far from incentivizing earlier closing hours by favoring applicants that agree to them – would invite still more beer-and-wine vendors to raucous nightlife strips.

Andrew Coamey, a resident of Alphabet City on Avenue A for more than 20 years, explained his doubts last night. “All this does is give landlords the opportunity to have an easier path to get licensed establishments in these locations,” he said. “You change now and Pandora’s Box will open. C.B. 3 would be hard pressed to go back.”

Ms. Stetzer also noted that the board had a history of faltering on policies such as its stance against new licenses in grandfathered residential zones. “We need consistency from the committee,” she said, “and I also think consistency is important for applicants.”

“There is no legal reason to deny beer and wine,” she added. “You’ve got to base [decisions] on what actually happens, and you’ve got to watch what happens [at the S.L.A.].”

At a meeting this month with Mr. Rosen at Borough President Scott Stringer’s office, the task force will ask for the S.L.A. chairman’s feedback about stipulations in resolution areas that would include earlier closing hours and a request that businesses not apply for an upgrade to a full liquor license. After hearing from Mr. Rosen, the task force will vote on the finalized stipulations.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 11, 2012

An earlier version of this post mistakenly said that the task force would send a letter to Mr. Rosen. Their inquiry will occur at a meeting with the chairman.