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CB3 Appears Poised to Challenge NYPD’s Bar Crackdown

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This evening, CB3’s full board is scheduled to vote on a sweeping new policy meant to streamline and standardize its tortuous liquor license review process. On Friday, we wrote about a contentious committee meeting held last week to resolve several key sticking points embedded in the proposal.

At the insistence of board member and bar owner David McWater, the panel agreed to formalize an unofficial CB3 policy of “rubber-stamping” licenses being transferred from one operator to another (it’s a bit more complicated than that – you can read last week’s story for details).

There was another controversial matter that came up during the meeting — the 7th Precinct’s relatively new crackdown on the neighborhood’s bars and clubs (which we reported about in December). CB3 members spoke of another sweep of the neighborhood over Valentine’s Day weekend, “which shut down Clinton Street.”  McWater said it’s all too reminiscent of a similar crackdown that occurred in the 9th Precinct (which covers most of the East Village) several years ago:

They come in on a Friday or Saturday night. They throw out all your customers. They turn out all your lights. You’ve lost a night of business… You’re going to get a ticket for something (even if you run a clean business). Yes, they all get dismissed (in court) but when you go to the SLA (the State Liquor Authority), beyond the legal fees, they’re $2000 each. The average raid costs about $10,000. I got raided, truly because I was community board chair. Then he (the police commander) calls a meeting of all the bar owners and he says… I’m going to raid every single one of you. Community Board 3 did nothing, no matter how much I screamed and hollered about it. Our rights were not the same as we would have given to Puerto Ricans or the elderly or homosexuals or any other group. Board 3 did nothing. In fact, a lot of people cheered it on. And it went on and on and on… I think we need to say somewhere that bars have rights. They’re members of this community also and that the threshhold for raiding them should be (wrongdoing)…

At least one board member, David Crane, took offense to the suggestion that CB3 “did nothing.” But in the end, board chair Dominic Pisciotta agreed to take the issue on — to research what agencies should be approached (NYPD, SLA, etc) — and to request meetings with the appropriate officials.

This evening’s meeting should be an interesting one. It takes place at P.S. 20, 166 Essex Street. The public speaking session begins at 6:30pm.

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