Friday's legislative hearing on a bill that Shelly Silver has introduced to cut down on the proliferation of bars and clubs in certain Manhattan neighborhoods was well-attended and boisterous. As the NY Times reported, the hearing "brought out scores of anxious business owners who oppose the measure and an even larger number of residents desperately seeking relief from what they say is a plague of noisy nightlife establishments and their inebriated clientele."
We believe that both parties have strong points but the legislative remedy, as Silver himself acknowledged, "is draconian." One of the bill's biggest problems, as we have pointed out before, is that it would effectively shutdown the expansion of the industry in certain areas, even those neighborhoods where complaints have been minimal. As one restauranteur said, "This law is punitive...It's going to hurt so many mom and pop entrepreneurs."
There is no doubt that some neighborhoods are under seige but the answer may lie with enforcement rather than blanket legislation. The Alliance knows since we have often worked with neighborhoods to rid the community of late night menaces. In Brooklyn we helped evict Ram Caterers that was operating late into the night out of a synogogue on Ocean Parkway. Existing law needs to be, and can be, vigorously enforced if a bar or club is unduly disturbing a neighborhood.
In addition, as the Times points out, if a community gets together it can force the State Liquor Authority to turn down an exemption to the so-called 500 foot law. Once again, the Alliance did just that in Chelsea as we stopped a club from opening on 17th Street next to Shadow Studios six years ago. As the SLA told the Times, "...when it comes to exemptions challenged by the community, it often sides with opponents. Daniel Boyle, the authority's chairman said that so far this year in Manhattan, the agency had rejected 7 of 10 applicants who faced local opposition.
A proper balance needs to be struck between neighborhoods seeking some peace and quiet and a bill that, in the words of Christyne Nichols, president of NYC and Company, "could drastically hinder our ability to bring future business for New York City." It is definitely time for statesmanship.