Senate Passes Bill Requiring City Resident on State Liquor Authority

Along with Assemblymember Deborah Glick, State Senator Brad Hoylman continues his quest for NYC representation on the State Liquor Authority board. | File photo courtesy of the Office of Senator Hoylman

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | One hurdle down, two to go: Legislation that would mandate New York City representation on the state agency that regulates alcoholic beverages, including licensing, passed the New York State Senate last week.

In a 40 to 21 vote, the measure, introduced by State Senator Brad Hoylman, passed the chamber on Wed., June 6.

The state’s Division of the Alcohol Beverage Control, known as the State Liquor Authority (SLA), is comprised of two commissioners and one chair — positions that are appointed by the governor. The legislation would require at least one member to be a New York City resident.

“New York City doesn’t have a voice on that very important regulatory body,” Hoylman told NYC Community Media by phone. “We have the vast majority of licenses considered by the SLA. It only follows that New York City would have representation on the board. It’s a matter of fairness and equity.”

Among other regulatory functions, the board reviews and issues licenses and permits for restaurants and bars — as well as for manufacture and the wholesale distribution of alcoholic beverages — which is an important issue for neighborhoods citywide, including Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.

Quality of life concerns — such as smoking, noise, and hours of operation — often take center stage at community board meetings as new or established businesses look to get a license or extend one. Community boards serve in an advisory capacity and make recommendations to the SLA regarding an applicant.

On the one hand, there are small businesses trying to make it in a competitive market, and on the other are communities that want to safeguard the character of their neighborhood and have concerns, Hoylman noted.

“It’s a balancing act and that balance is decided by three commissioners,” he said.

For nearly two years, one of the three seats has been vacant — Commissioner Kevin Kim stepped down on Aug. 25, 2016. Vincent Bradley is the current chair and resides in Kingston, and Greeley T. Ford is one of the commissioners and lives in Camden, according to the SLA’s website.

The authority received 2,879 applications for on-premise licenses for “Zone 1,” which includes the five boroughs, compared to 1,461 for the rest of the state in 2015, according to the latest publicly available report on the SLA’s website.

A chart from 2015 — the latest publicly available report on the SLA’s website — that looks at licensing throughout New York state. Zone 1 includes the five boroughs. | Image via

In 2017, the SLA issued 43,264 renewals statewide, with more than half of those renewals — 26,772 — were for the zone that includes the city, William Crowley, the SLA’s director of public affairs, said in an email.

He did not respond to questions about why there has been a lag in the public release of data or if the authority would be releasing a new report soon.

When asked about the proposed law, Crowley said the authority “does not take positions on pending legislation.”

Hoylman said that community boards “have a very good relationship with the SLA in recent years and we want that to continue.”

Frank M. Holozubiec, co-chair of the Community Board 4 (CB4) Business Licenses & Permits Committee, said that having a commissioner who resides in the city would be very helpful to the process.

“It’s one thing to have abstract knowledge of balancing the needs of residents and licensed establishments but I think it adds a lot if someone lives in the area,” Holozubiec, a Hell’s Kitchen resident for 18 years, said in a phone interview.

For example, he noted how a bar on the ground floor within a string of residential buildings can affect those who live above, adjacent, and nearby.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick also cited the large number of licenses within the five boroughs.

“People live directly over licensed premises,” she said by phone.

Glick is carrying the companion legislation in the Assembly and said that it is in committee right now.

“It’s not at all clear that we’ll be able to get it out of committee,” Glick said. “That’s the first step.”

With the legislative session ending on June 20, she said, “We’ll be working long days and well into the night. There’s a lot of time. It’s possible but it’s not a foregone conclusion.”

If the legislation does pass the Assembly, it will then go to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

Repeated requests for comment from the governor’s office went unanswered, and it is unclear why no one has yet to be appointed to the vacant seat. The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce did not respond to request for comment.

Despite the status of the current proposed law, Glick said, “Nothing prevents the governor from doing the right thing and appointing a resident from New York City right now.”

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