Community Board 3, representing Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Corona, is saying enough is enough to bad custodians of liquor licenses.
Last month, State Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen said at a town hall meeting that the board should give the SLA more recommendations whether to approve licenses or not. So board members did just that on May 17.
Out of the six applications, the board recommended three for denial. The reasoning ranged from numerous violations to unlicensed activity and unclear ownership.
“A lot of these are operating as illegal cabarets. There have been issues of multiple noise abatement and some have sold liquor to minors,” Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said. “Illegal cabarets are a big issue.”
Four businesses in the three neighborhoods are legally allowed to operate as a cabaret, an establishment that allows dancing and live music, he said. However, there are more than four operating cabarets.
“It’s not only the bars, but drugs and prostitution,” Moya said. “They are opening bakeries, but they have tinted windows and open as a cabaret at night.”
Although the board made a step to stopping bars and restaurants that conduct business illegally, the recommendations are not always accepted. In some cases the licensees send in a petition or a group backs their desire for a license, according to an SLA spokesman. Nevertheless, the denied applications receive special attention from the SLA.
“Most applications will be approved at the staff level, but every application denied by the community board is sent to the three member board [which Rosen chairs],” according to a SLA spokesman.
The three locations denied by CB 3 are Sports, TV and Dance Station LLC, 33-13 104 St.; Angel’s Party Place, 91-01 Astoria Blvd.; and Angelita, 107-01 37 Ave.
Angelita was the only one out of three with a listed telephone number. The board said they recommended the license for denial because ownership was unclear.
“It was a renewal. I don’t understand why they denied us for that,” Angelita manager Francisco Diaz said. “They didn’t let me speak.”
The owner Angelita Peralta has had a liquor license for four years, Diaz said. The restaurant has no violations, he added.
Residents and board members of CB 3 and CB 4 have said there is frequent violent and drunken behavior in connections to the many bars, which affects the quality of life in the area.
“We have too many liquor establishments in all three neighborhoods,” board member Ed Westley said.
Moya attempted last year to put a moratorium on any more liquor licenses in the area. The SLA declined the request saying it was unconstitutional, he said.
A law states bars and restaurants can be denied a license if the establishment is within 500 feet of another liquor vendor. These places go through a three-to-six-month special hearing process to determine if the owner will be approved.
The area has several locations with bars one after the other, far closer together than 500 feet, Moya said. He believes the motivation for the SLA is the money that comes from the applications.
Another law that could mitigate liquor saturation in a neighborhood states that the person seeking the license must notify his or her community board of the intent to file an application with the SLA no less than 30 days before filing. Moya and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) say that’s not enough time.
The two politicians have introduced legislation that would increase that period to 60 days as well as provide community boards with a liaison responsible for communications between the board and the SLA.
The Assembly bill is in the Economic Development Committee, which Moya sits on.
In addition to the bill, Moya plans to introduce legislation that would make it illegal for a restaurant, which was closed down for violations, to reopen under another name.
“This happens all the time,” Moya said.