The Lo-Down has been all over the story. Here's their take:
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.
In particular, the full board voted to phase out "the controversial practice of automatically transferring licenses from one operator to another." (Be sure to read the Lo-Down's post on last week's epic bar policy meeting in which CB3 member David McWater said to another board member: "That is the most bullshit thing you could ever fucking say. You want to see ballistic? This is ballistic.")
Here's the view from Rob at Save the Lower East Side!:
A momentous vote last night at Community Board 3: they voted, in effect, to curb the trend of commercial real estate speculation that has been decimating local-serving businesses and speeding up yuppie gentrification, which, unlike family-gentrification, creates neighborhoods of upscale transients displacing community without replacing any community at all. CB3 voted to phase out automatic liquor license transfer approval. It may be the most significant vote they've ever made.
Under the old dispensation, when a bar owner decides to sell the business, a new owner of that business can 'buy' the liquor license. The CB, treating the bought license as if there were no change in management, effectively guarantees the financial value of the license. That sends a message to prospective bar owners everywhere that a license is guaranteed — insured — in this community district. You don't have to face the community, you don't have to face the Board members. If the street on that business has over time filled with new bars, you don't have to worry about increased community objections.
Jill at Blah Blog Blah has been closely following the issue too... Read her post on the topic from last week that inspired a good deal of conversation.
For more on this story, here are nice recaps from Patrick Hedlund at DNAinfo and the Local East Village.
One important note on all this: CB3 is going to grandfather all current licenses, meaning that a current active license may still be transferred.
In any event, I'm still wrapping my head around all this. Don't expect to see shops selling, say, yarn, records, zines, junk and what not popping up on Avenue A tomorrow now in place of bars as a result of this. It took years for the East Village/LES to get into this nightlife mess; it will take a few more before there's a noticeable difference. But there's hope....