Monday, May 21, 2012

Are concerns about Barclays Center liquor license "entitled neighborhood grievance"? Times columnist doesn't look closely enough

Ginia Bellafante's Big City column yesterday in the New York Times Metropolitan section, The Neighborhood Drinking Problem, raised the question: "Should we think harder about drinking as a matter of urban policy?"

And in getting to her prime example--the threat in Corona, Queens, where working-class single male immigrants face a plethora of bars--the writer took an uninformed swipe at the arguments over the Barclays Center liquor license.

Bellafante wrote:
The problem with modern-day temperance initiatives in New York — beyond the obvious risk of their seeming hoary in a place where a wine bar provides the ultimate imprimatur of gentrification — is that they so often take the form of entitled neighborhood grievance. Recently in Chelsea, residents protested the potential opening of a gastro pub that had the well-known club owner Amy Sacco attached...

In the same vein, this month, Brooklyn Speaks, an amalgamation of civic organizations and community groups concerned about the development at Atlantic Yards, drew up a petition calling on the State Liquor Authority to end alcohol sales at the Barclays Center arena no later than 10 p.m. The group worried that drinking at the stadium could linger on until 4 a.m., even though no amount of N.B.A. overtime — or encores at a Bon Jovi concert, for that matter — would ever likely last that long. (The group was seeking to end drinks sales at basketball games at half time; at Madison Square Garden, they are permitted until the beginning of the fourth quarter.)

These outcries, however warranted, have received far more attention than the existing threat to civic and social life elsewhere.
Looking more closely

It's not unreasonable to point to Corona, but to consider qualms about the Barclays Center liquor license "entitled neighborhood grievance" (yet "however warranted") is to not have looked closely enough.

Indeed, as one commenter on the article observed, the arena operator "has REQUESTED that drinks be served at its establishment until 4 am. It's not an idle idea floating out there as your article implies."

And, as BrooklynSpeaks points out, liquor sales after 9:30 pm are banned at Wrigley Field in Chicago. That's because Wrigley is ensconced in a residential neighborhood.

The Brooklyn arena would be not be as enveloped in a residential neighborhood--after all, its western flank points to the intersection of wide Atlantic and Flatbush avenues--but it is certainly encroaching on it, with row houses and residences to the south and east.

In other words, it's not Madison Square Garden, which follows the NBA rule of ending drinking after the third quarter. (That was instilled after an ugly brawl.) Nor has the arena released a Code of Conduct.

Having visited arenas in many cities, I'd say that no NBA arena will abut a residential neighborhood as closely as the Barclays Center. So it's not unreasonable--not "entitled neighborhood grievance," not "die-hard opponents," to quote more misguided Times coverage--to argue for additional restrictions on alcohol sales.

Pending license applications

As noted in the document at bottom, the applicants seek 52 separate licenses from the State Liquor Authority. Click to the SLA site to see such distinctions as:
  • CHAIRMANS CLUB
  • PORTABLE SAUSAGES & BAR
  • SPECIALTY HOT DOG, BEER ONLY; LEVEL 6
  • GRILL, BEER ONLY; LEVEL 4
  • PORTABLE DRAFT BEER; LEVEL 6
The most detailed document is the main bar license:


On the LIRR

Also note Patch's report that "[p]assengers will no longer be able to carry alcoholic beverages—opened or unopened—onto trains leaving Atlantic Terminal and Penn Station on Saturday and Sunday between midnight and 5 a.m." Nor will they be allowed to have alcohol on any LIRR trains during those hours.

While the policy change--which follows two incidents in March in which drunken passengers attacked conductors--would affect those leaving the Barclays Center arena, Patch says there doesn't seem to be a connection.

The news, however, is a reminder that, unlike those coming to the arena by public transit, those taking the LIRR can arrive already liquored up. I've seen a lot of drinking on LIRR and Metro-North trains during my time.

From the State Liquor Authority
Barclays Center Liquor License Applications

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