Records Show Spike in Underage Drinking Charges on the LES

Brooklyn chicken and waffle joint Sweet Chick got a green light to serve liquor at 178 Ludlow St. today.
Max Fish, the Ludlow Street institution, is one of several bars that have been temprarily shut down by the NYPD.

Underage drinking in Lower East Side bars — it’s been a hot topic for several months now.  Beginning last fall, the 7th Precinct made it a top priority — coming after neighborhood drinking establishments for serving alcohol to undercover auxiliary officers. This week the East Village Local adds some hard statistics to the ongoing story.

Their report, posted yesterday, is based on a review on State Liquor Authority records in the East Village, LES and Chinatown.  The EVL concludes:

The police crackdown on bars in the Lower East Side resulted in a dramatic increase in charges of underage drinking against business owners… During a three-month stretch of intense enforcement early this year, the S.L.A., which acts on recommendations from the police, handed down 39 charges of underage drinking in the neighborhood, compared to 31 charges issued during all of 2009 and 2010.

You can see all of the violations (received between 2007-2011) in this Google Spreadsheet.

In the article, Paul Seres, president of the New York Nightlife Association, says,  “If the police feel there is a pandemic of sales to minors and they see it going up, rather than closing businesses down, why don’t you call a meeting with owners and give them a warning?… It’s never been done, and that is my problem with the way the police have chosen to proceed. They’ve never done any outreach.”

There is, of course, a difference of opinion on this point.  Captain David Miller, who’s overseeing the 7th Precinct crackdown, argues he’s made it clear to nightlife operators that they must do more to prevent underage drinking. Bar owners, however, have told us there has been little or now warning from the precinct before their businesses are shut down.