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Lower East Side Nightlife Crackdown Leads to Spike in Underage Drinking Busts

super subway angstRachel Citron The 7th Precinct has been targeting bar owners for serving drinks to minors.

The police crackdown on bars in the Lower East Side resulted in a dramatic increase in charges of underage drinking against business owners, data provided by the State Liquor Authority shows.

During a three-month stretch of intense enforcement early this year, the S.L.A., which acts on recommendations from the police, handed down 39 charges of underage drinking in the neighborhood, compared to 31 charges issued during all of 2009 and 2010.

UnderageBoozing009_080211Lauren Carol Smith View full graphic

Bar owners in the three zip codes that, taken together, include the East Village and Lower East Side faced 230 charges of serving minors from 2007 to 2011, resulting in $1,034,800 in fines. The data shows that large numbers of charges come during intense periods of enforcement, and bars in the Lower East Side in particular have faced an unprecedented and disproportionate amount of scrutiny this year.

Each offense results in fines of up to $10,000, and repeat offenders risk being shut down permanently. Some of the more high-profile watering holes caught in the dragnet include Mason Dixon (which eventually closed altogether) and Welcome to the Johnson’s.

The increase in enforcement came as the 7th Precinct resurrected its cabaret unit, which focuses on the Lower East Side’s booming nightlife scene, as well as the arrival of Capt. David Miller at the precinct last year. An officer with Community Affairs in the 7th Precinct would not comment on enforcement of sale of alcohol to minors.

In 2009, the East Village’s 9th Precinct disbanded its own cabaret unit, though at a recent community meeting Deputy Inspector Kenneth Lehr said underage drinking remained a priority.

Many bar owners say that they are being unfairly punished for an issue beyond their control.

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Luca Bar Back in Business

Last week, we told you about Luca Bar’s $31,000 in back taxes, which led to it being closed by the State Department of Taxation and Finance. Now comes the news that the bar and restaurant re-opened yesterday. As for the owners’ tax troubles, bartender Anastasia Morozova told us, “It’s all been taken care of.”—Stephen Rex Brown

Luca Bar Owes $31,000 in Back Taxes

We’ve learned more details about the unpaid taxes that forced the closure of Luca Bar. The owners of the bar, Vito DiTomaso and Christophe Mazuel, owe state tax officials a grand total of $31,385.49, not including interest and penalties, said Susan Burns, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Taxation and Finance. Ms. Burns, who declined to discuss what would have to occur for the bar to re-open, said that the bar has six open warrants for unpaid taxes dating to November 2009; Mr. Mazuel did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Luca Bar Closed For Back Taxes

Screen shot 2011-06-03 at 3.06.07 PMStephen Rex Brown Luca Bar, 119 St. Marks Place.

State officials have seized Luca Bar, the upscale bar and restaurant at 119 St. Marks Place, for non-payment of taxes. The bar, known for its European flavor, was seized last night, according to those who work on the block; a bright orange sign announcing the seizure had been taped to the bar’s front window. The Local has reporters working on the story and we will provide more information as it becomes available.