Harlem Bars Could Be Squeezed Out by Dan Squadron's Tighter Nightlife Law
By Suzanne Ma
HARLEM — If you live in Harlem, you might have noticed how hard it is to find a place that'll serve you a mojito.
A new bill would make it even harder by closing a loophole in a state law that blocks issuing liquor licenses for spaces within 200 feet of churches and schools — under the new law property lines, not doorways, would be use to measure the 200-foot limit.
The clarification poses a special challenge for prospective bar owners who want to start a business in neighborhoods like Harlem, where there are 42 churches and 11 schools between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and Park Avenue and 125th and 135th Streets.
DNAinfo located just 11 restaurants and bars in this area with active liquor licenses.
"There's a church every block in Harlem, honestly," said Sheron Chin Barnes, owner of Mobay Uptown Restaurant on W. 125 Street. "So much of these rules, regulations. It's very difficult on entrpereueurs. It's tough enough with all the [city] taxes."
But State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who once owned a bar himself, argues that the law is necessary to keep the peace in areas where some residents are wary of rowdy nighttime crowds.
“This bill closes a loophole in the 200-foot rule big enough to fit its own bar," Squadron said in a statement.
"By clarifying that measurements must be taken from the property line, as was always intended, this bill creates a clear, consistent standard for communities and establishments to follow – another step toward desperately needed consistency and clarity in licensing.”
Barnes opened up Mobay nine years ago, and says her establishment is a family-friendly restaurant with a full bar.
"I thank God that we opened up before this rule passed," she said, adding that while the law poses obstacles for prospective restaurant and bar owners, it will also keep most of the competition away.
Squadron has worked on closing loopholes in other so-called nightlife laws in the past.
Last year he passed another bill that enforced the "500-foot law," where bars, clubs and taverns are included when the State Liquor Authority considers whether there are three or more nightlife establishments operating within 500 feet of a new applicant.
That bill became law in September 2009.
Squadron once owned a bar.
Barely old enough to drink, Squadron and three buddies took a year off from Yale in 2001 and moved to New York to open "What Bar" near Columbia University at 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.
The bar, according to the Yale Daily News, soon developed a "neighborhood Cheers-type crowd" known for its cheeseburgers and cheap beer.
Squadron and his friends sold the bar nine months later, reportedly at a great profit, and returned to Yale to finish their college degrees.