In an outrageous display of disregard for the concerns of neighborhood parents, educators, and homeowners, the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) recently approved a liquor license to Mimi Fisher, a shop owner whose husband, Shane Doyle, has a history of selling alcohol to minors.
Located on the corner of East 116th Street and Pleasant Avenue – and near several schools and a convent – the East River Wine and Liquor Discount store has caused great consternation among community residents who continue to demand that the establishment be closed.
According to reports, Doyle had recently been involved in managing the business despite having his own liquor license revoked and after being banned by the SLA from even entering the shop. (He is no longer listed as manager.)
Despite evidence introduced by local homeowners that the liquor store violates the “200-foot rule” intended to keep such establishments a “safe” distance from local schools and churches, the SLA has refused to reconsider its own contrary measurements. In spite of the setback, residents and representatives of Community Board 11 remain vigilant and determined to force the issue.
Myself and other activists are calling on state legislators to take charge, encouraging them to begin by revisiting the rule that allows such close proximity to schools and churches and introduce legislation extending the ban to as much as 500 feet.
We believe that the SLA should also be mandated to develop a more stringent conflict-of-interest policy for applicants and their relatives and to develop a broader public review process to prevent this kind of situation from happening again. We should be granted the opportunity to review liquor license applications online in order to research ownership patterns.
Communities should be empowered to assert their rights and to enforce the rule of law in the absence of others doing so. East Harlem does not need another liquor store; certainly not one surrounded by schools, churches, convents and brownstones! We deserve healthier options, not predatory businesses such as these.
The State Liquor Authority’s Harlem office was raided in 2009 after a year-long criminal probe of corruption and bribery in the granting of restaurant and bar licenses. Though drastic reforms were promised, two years later the state agency now faces an even bigger scandal.
Recently, New York State Senator Carl Kruger was charged with taking bribes in exchange for helping expand the business hours of establishments serving alcohol and pushing bills on behalf of liquor stores and beer distributors. (Kruger is joined by former East River Plaza lobbyist Richard Lipsky and six other defendants in a broader federal bribery and racketeering case.)
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