Sunday, March 14, 2010

New SLA chief not a rubber stamper

Crain's has a feature on new SLA Chairman Dennis Rosen titled "The Gunslinger: State's new top liquor cop shrinks license backlog, leaves community groups unsure." If you have an interest in the future of liquor license approvals in the neighborhood, then you may want to give the piece a read...

An excerpt:

I'm not a rubber stamp for either the community boards or business,” says Mr. Rosen, a former state assistant attorney general who led a state investigation of the SLA in 2005.

Mr. Rosen, who took over in August, is overhauling the SLA from top to bottom. He has dramatically reformed the agency, once seen as a symbol of failure and corruption. He has reduced the nine-month wait for a liquor license to as little as two weeks in some cases, slashed the backlog of applications from 3,000 to 1,800, and stepped up enforcement actions by partnering with local cops to crack down on businesses that flout the law.

Balancing the interests of city residents who want quiet neighborhoods and business owners who serve alcohol late at night is a big challenge for Mr. Rosen. Restaurants and bars have long complained that overzealous community boards overstep their statutory rights by, say, declaring moratoriums on new liquor licenses on busy blocks, and that they call in political favors to get their way.

Mr. Rosen is sympathetic to residents' concerns and is meeting frequently with them, discussing ways in which the agency can help. But community boards were surprised when the SLA recently removed a question from the license application that asks for the business's hours of operation, because city law allows bars to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. Now, many boards are requiring businesses applying for a liquor license to sign an affidavit in which they state their hours of operation. That way, the boards can force the venues to close when they promise to.

For further reading:
Liquor Authority Chief Listens, As Residents and Bar Owners Vent (The Lo-Down)

[Photo by Buck Ennis via Crain's]

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