Good Night Mr. Lewis: New Year’s Eve Saved!

imageWhile most of us were trying to figure out if there will be a Christmas this year, there have been unsung heroes fighting to ensure that we have a great New Year’s Eve. Normally, venues apply for a late-night license that permits serving booze into the wee hours of the night, allowing them to get a much-needed revenue boost before winter sets in and business literally goes south. But it seems that the SLA snuck in a rule this year stating that clubs, restaurants, and bars, which normally file for the late-night extension by the first week of December, had to file by November 17. This new rule seemed sure to create havoc; however; no havoc was to be seen and no shouts of protest were heard, as very few people knew about it. The SLA decided not to announce this ruling save by posting it on their very popular website, where all of maybe ten people might have noticed it. When asked why they would do business in this way, they reportedly answered that people should check the website. We all know that everyone is too busy clicking in here, on DBTH, and Guest of a Guest to have time for that.

Well, lucky for us, nightlife’s version of Batman and Robin — Robert Bookman and David Rabin of the New York Nightlife Association — made a stink. In the first sign of intelligent life up there in a very long time, the SLA did the right thing, and the deadline for filing has been extended until December 5. The fact that a dialogue between the agency and the NYNA occurred — and that a positive action was the result — is reason to be cheerful. This ruling by the SLA represents a return to form for an agency that used to be reasonable and efficient. According to Bookman, there are, as of this writing, approximately 2,400 licenses waiting for review; a normal two- to three-month wait has now extended to six or seven months.

In this economy, such a delay should be examined by all those in the state government trying to figure out how to make ends meet. How many tens of thousands of jobs will be created with swift approval for these tax-generating venues? How many construction jobs, service jobs, how many et ceteras do I add to this point? Why aren’t these people being told to act now to give this economy the shot in the arm that bureaucracy is preventing? Oh, by the way, the law says that review must take place within 30 days. At one point, the SLA saw itself as a major tax-generating agency, there to make sure that the very bad guys didn’t get into the booze-ness. The over-regulation of the hospitality business is a tremendous cost to this city’s economy and will eventually be costly to the tourist industry as well. All over town clubs are on the brink, many of which still suffer under recently imposed or enforced rules that make doing business nearly impossible. In time, tourist dollars will chose other cities like Miami, Las Vegas, or Atlantic City, where running a joint doesn’t require teams of lawyers just to break even.

Still, more good news comes from the SLA front: Hudson Terrace, which has been fighting the good fight in its attempt to obtain a liquor license, was finally approved. After 18 months of doing all the right things, this amazing space — -for the record designed by my partner Marc Dizon — got passed. A source tells me that approximately $600,000 in tax revenues were not generated during this period, in addition to cab fares, wages, and taxes from employees — hey, I’ll just refer back to those previous etc’s. I couldn’t each anyone over at the Hudson Terrace, but a legal beagle pal of mine pointed out that the 500-foot rule often used to prevent clubs from obtaining licensing has a couple of large loopholes in it.

My boy with the diploma on the wall from that good law school says that under section 64 A, B, C, and D (and ill throw in an E for etc.), there are actually a number of different types of liquor licenses. The rule seems to say that you can’t have more than three “like” licenses within a 500-foot radius; but this recent interpretation, if I was listening correctly while walking with him and chewing gum at the same time, means that a fourth license of a different type is OK. So you can have 3 A’s and throw in a B, C, and maybe even a D, and it would be all within right. Or, you take three B’s, add D, and well … etc.!

I’m told that in mid-February, a new-look SLA will be tasked with the difficult job of regulating an industry which exists in upstate New York, Long Island, and New York City as well. Sometimes what works for those Long Island gooses doesn’t make sense to us New York City ganders, so it’s not an easy job. The current dialogue comes at a time when the needs of the industry coincide with the needs of the state. The hospitality business can generate lots of loot for an Albany that’s trying to figure out how to keep schools, highways, government programs … etc. paid for.

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