East Harlem Officials Want Liquor Store Near School Closed
By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — Community officials are demanding a liquor store operating opposite a high school and a church be closed because the owner's husband has a history of selling alcohol to minors.
In January, the State Liquor Authority granted Gramercy Park resident Mimi Fisher permission to open East River Wine and Liquor Discount at 302 Pleasant Avenue, at East 116th Street, under one condition — her husband, Shane Doyle, couldn't set foot in the store.
He has had a liquor license revoked after three instances of selling alcohol to minors at another store in NoHo. SLA commissioners were concerned he could be using his wife as a front in the Harlem store.
But community officials claim her husband's history of infractions and the store's location opposite the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics High School and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church meant the store should be shut down.
"That puts it over the top. You have someone with a history of breaking the law and doing something that is immoral and then you say, 'Let's put this guy right next to a school,'" said Matthew Washington, chair of Community Board 11. "The general consensus is that it shouldn't be there."
Doyle was originally listed as manager of the store but Fisher has since hired a new manager. Despite the SLA's warning, a store employee said Doyle spent time at the store, but was "not involved" in the business.
However community members said they thought Doyle was involved.
"I think it's outrageous that a license was ever granted in the first place," said Marina Ortiz of East Harlem Preservation, a neighborhood advocacy group.
The East River Wine and Liquor Discount manager said an electronic age verification system had been ordered and Fisher said employees would be especially vigilant against underage customers. SLA officials said they believed the restrictions on the license protected the public.
But Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito questioned whether the agency would be able to properly enforce its prohibition against Doyle.
"During difficult fiscal times our enforcement sources are weakened," she said.
"Now they have to rely on us as a community. What happens if we can't get the attention we deserve to make this person comply with the law?"
Local officials also questioned whether the liquor store was at least 200 feet from the entrances of the church and school, as required by law. Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez sent a letter asserting one of the school's entrances was just 98 feet from the store and asked for the SLA to remeasure.
The SLA's deputy CEO and an investigator checked the distance on Monday and determined the doors were further than 200 feet away, a SLA spokesperson said.
Ortiz said that there was a plan to ask legislators to increase the rule to 500 feet.