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Queens Chronicle

Western Queens: Jackson Heights and Corona residents question area's liquor saturation

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Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 3:26 pm | Updated: 2:19 pm, Thu May 3, 2012.

The amount of liquor vendors, violations and drunken behavior in Jackson Heights, Corona and East Elmhurst has spurred politicians to act and has residents wondering what can be done.

Under current law, community boards must be notified by the State Liquor Authority about liquor license applications within 30 days after they have been received. Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) say that's not enough. The duo has introduced legislation that would increase that time period to 60 days. A spokeswoman with Moya's office said the legislation would give boards, which only meet once a month, more time to voice its concerns.

The New York State Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen said at a Community Board 3 town hall about liquor licenses on Monday that 60 days is too much time. The board should email the SLA if the it needs more time, he said.  A blanket law should not be in place to slow down the process for all, Rosen said.

About 70 community members and restaurant owners in attendance at the town hall posed further questions to the SLA and to police officers with the 115 Precinct about liquor dispensary saturation in the area, what can be done about it and license requirements. 

"I think it's a problem that there is no [municipal] statute in place to say that only a certain amount of liquor licenses can be in a certain area," resident and former board chair Mary Vavruska said. 

However, Rosen said the state's hands can be tied when it comes to saturation. 

There is due process, he said. 

A license can be rejected if the location sits within 300 feet of another liquor vendor, but if the applicant does not violate this rule it's hard for the liquor authority to reject them unless the owner is unfit, he said.

"We don't use a formula [to determine how many liquor vendors can be in the are], and I don't think it would be legal," Rosen said. 

There are 361 liquor licenses in the 115th Precinct's jurisdiction.

"Most of the places are good in the 115," Deputy Inspector Thomas Kavanagh said.

The two main offenses in Corona and Jackson Heights are unlicensed cabarets and selling liquor to minors, according to  Rosen. Kavanagh added drugs and after hour sales to the list. 

"Maybe Joey deals drugs out of the bathroom," Kavanagh said as a hypothetical example.

 A cabaret is a business that allows dancing and has live music. The first two times venues will receive a fine, Rosen said. A following violation could result in the revoking of the location's liquor license.

In New York City the Liquor Authority has conducted 253 liquor sales to minors stings this year. Out of those about half were in violation, Rosen said. 

The Liquor Authority's stings allow the underage volunteers to lie about their age, which is different than the Police Department's decoys.

"I want them to act like any other kid trying to get a beer," said Rosen. "You must take their ID not just their word."


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