CB3 Approves New Liquor Licensing Rules

CB3 held hearings on liquor licensing policy last summer and fall.

Last night Community Board 3 voted to put in place comprehensive new policies that could have a dramatic impact on the nightlife industry on the Lower East Side for years to come.  The revised rules, governing how CB3’s SLA Committee evaluates liquor license applications, are intended to streamline and standardize a process that has been harshly criticized by bar owners and community activists alike as inconsistent and capricious.

Reversing a decision made at the committee level last week, the full board decided to phase out the controversial practice of automatically transferring licenses from one operator to another. During a heated meeting last Wednesday, CB3 member and bar owner David McWater persuaded his colleagues to make the practice official community board policy. But last night, key members of the panel changed their minds. Acting on a proposal from longtime CB3 member David Crane, the full board then voted 37-0-3-1, to throw out the automatic transfer language (there were 3 abstentions; one member did not vote).

CB3 Votes Down Automatic Transfer of Liquor Licenses

Later today, we’ll have a detailed report on Community Board 3’s decision last night regarding the automatic transfer of liquor licenses from one operator to another.  Last week, at the urging of bar owners serving on the board, a CB3 committee decided to make the longstanding practice official policy. But in the course of yesterday’s dramatic meeting that decision was reversed.

Some committee members said they felt intimidated and/or confused during last week’s contentious meeting laying out the new policies and had decided to change their votes during the full board session.

Two members, Ariel Palitz and Meghan Joye (both bar owners) chose not to vote, after they were told they could face “conflict of interest” complaints if they weighed in on the controversial matter.

In the end, CB3 approved sweeping new policies affecting every aspect of the liquor license approval process. More later.

Angry Words Dominate CB3 Meeting on Bar Policies

CB3's David McWater was at the center of this week's contentious meeting.

if there’s one thing you can say about members of Community Board 3, they’re passionate about the Lower East Side. So its not very surprising when, from time to time, discussions about various issues become a little heated. But earlier this week, a meeting to finish hashing out new policies for evaluating liquor licenses became unusually contentious. The back and forth among board members turned highly personal, tense and ugly — before the proposals were finally approved, unanimously.

For the past several months, CB3 has been trying to figure out how to address a perception that the recommendations of the “SLA Committee” are often inconsistent and arbitrary — and that marathon meetings frequently stretching well past midnight are counter-productive and overly burdensome on everyone involved.