Lower Manhattan elected officials hosted a Town Hall meeting Thursday night to talk about neighborhood complaints about the night-time bar scene. NY1’s Natasha Ghoneim filed the following report.
"I can't even let my child walk home alone at night and I've lived there for 30 years,” testified one Lower East Side resident.
The "I was here first" sentiment was echoed repeatedly by people living near a bar or nightclub who are at their wit's end. People at the town hall meeting vented and hoped for a resolution.
They had the attention of the State Liquor Authority chairman and Lower Manhattan elected officials.
"A liquor license is not a noise license,” said Greenwich Village resident Dennis Mahoney. “Keep the drunks off the street. Keep the bellowing out of my ears, and enforce those licenses."
The New York City Nightlife Association estimates that its industry "generates $10 billion a year in economic activity and is responsible for 95,500 jobs." Paul Seres of the NYC Nightlife Association says most bar and nightclub owners strive to be good neighbors and most conflicts can be resolved just by bringing residents and business owners together
"New York City is a tight place to live in,” he said. “We're all on top of one another so we have to find a way to make it work. Without bars, restaurants and nightclubs, everybody's taxes are going to go up. If we don't pay them, someone else has to pay them and people don't seem to realize that."
Residents and bar and nightclub owners seem to agree on one thing: dealing with the State Liquor Authority can be frustrating. For example, there is a backlog of liquor license applications and complaints cannot be easily tracked online.
"Historically the State Liquor Authority has been so bad. It's been so bad that the community feels ignored and the industry feels there is incompetence in the body that oversees them,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron.
Since his tenure began last August, SLA Chairman Dennis Rosen has focused on reform. He says he's reduced the backlog of liquor license applications from 3,000 to 1,800, and his agency is moving swiftly to shut down problem establishments.
"We're not going to give someone a license that shouldn't have it, but we're also at the other end stepping up enforcement,” Rosen said. “Because part of what the community concern regarding a license is once you get it, you can't lose it. We want to change that perception."
The SLA chairman vows to eliminate the liquor license application backlog by October. He's says new applications should now be processed within 30 days as mandated by the Legislature, instead of the months-long process it was previously.