August 30, By Tara Law
State Senator Jose Peralta (D-Elmhurst) is calling on the Assembly to pass a bill that would help the community keep tabs on troublesome bars and shut them down as need be.
Peralta, who sponsored and passed such legislation in the state senate in June, said the bill would require the State Liquor Authority, or SLA, to work more closely with community boards.
The SLA would be required to create a liaison position to report to each community board. The liaison would keep each board informed as to liquor license hearings, renewals and other pertinent information.
The bill would also direct the SLA to conduct investigations of problem establishments at the bequest of community boards and other officials. The SLA would be required to set up a task force and report its findings to the community boards.
“Most bars, restaurants and clubs are law-abiding good neighbors, but there are a few bad apples that can disrupt and destroy a community’s quality of life,” said Peralta. “My proposal calls for a liaison between the SLA and community boards to prevent noisy and disruptive establishments from affecting the quality of life of the communities they are located in.”
The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) in June but was not voted on. Peralta is urging the Assembly to pass it.
Peralta described his motivation for the bill in two words: Roosevelt Avenue.
The avenue, he said, is saturated with bars, which attracts crime and disorderly conduct to the area. The street is one of his office’s biggest sources of complaints in the community.
Peralta said that greater oversight of these establishments is needed and that the SLA needs to listen to community and rein them in.
The same bars repeatedly receive citations, he said, but the SLA pays little attention to the public and renews their liquor licenses unless there is a major incident. He said that the SLA typically ignores community boards when they recommend rejecting a problem establishment’s license.
“The only time they pay attention is when something very bad happens,” Peralta said. “The rationale at the SLA is that unless there’s a huge public outcry, we’ll approve [applications].”
Peralta said that the bill would help community boards make their concerns about problem establishments known to the SLA. Ultimately, Peralta said, he would like to see the worst bars replaced with family-owned restaurants.
The first portion of the bill would create a state liquor community liaison position for each community board. The liaison would make sure that every community board receives notifications of license and permit applications, dispositions, renewals or changes.
The liaison would be required to attend community board meetings and inform the board of relevant SLA meetings and agendas. The liaison would also be required to submit reports and recommendations about each community board’s concerns to the SLA.
The second section of the bill would create a task force that would examine complaints from community boards and officials. It would also serve as a liaison between different government institutions, including the Department of Health and the Department of Consumer Affairs.
According to the bill, the task force would look into any “threat to the public health, safety, or welfare.”
The SLA would designate the members of the task force, including investigators from its Albany, Buffalo and New York City offices.
The bill would require that an investigation be started within 14 days of notification, and be completed within 45 days. As necessary, a disciplinary hearing would follow the investigation. A copy of disposition and determination would be delivered to the group that filed the notification, such as the community board, within ten days of completion.
Patrick O’Brien, the chair of the City Services and Public Safety Committee for Community Board 2, said that a task force would be “very significant and welcomed addition to the law.”
“It would permit [community boards] to compel SLA investigations where appropriate, and require the SLA to keep the [community boards] informed of what is happening in the investigation,” O’Brien wrote in an email.
Although the senate bill passed in June, it will have to be reintroduced and passed again in that chamber when the next legislative session begins in January. A bill must pass both the Assembly and the Senate during the same session, which typically goes from January through June, before it can be signed into law.