EAST VILLAGE — New bars and restaurants hoping to serve booze in the most nightlife-saturated parts of the East Village now have almost no chance of winning the local community board's support for their liquor license applications — but that could soon change.
Community Board 3 is considering easing its restrictions on new liquor licenses in areas that are already packed with bars, as long as the newcomers close early and serve only beer and wine — not hard alcohol.
The change would apply to nightlife-heavy strips like Avenue A, where CB3 has a longstanding policy of not approving any new liquor licenses unless they clearly benefit the community.
That policy was designed to discourage new bars, but it has also wound up warding off other businesses like cafes that want to serve patrons a glass of wine with lunch, and high-end beer shops that want to hold early evening tastings, said Susan Stetzer, district manager of CB3.
"There have been businesses that were caught in [the policy] that some people think were never intended to be," Stetzer said.
The new policy would be more welcoming of daytime establishments — those closing by about midnight and serving only beer and wine — in keeping with CB3's efforts to increase foot traffic during the day and avoid new late-night establishments.
"We're interested in preventing problems," said David Crane, a member of CB3's State Liquor Authority Task Force. "If they're not open until 4 a.m., they're much less likely to become problems."
In addition to Avenue A, other parts of the East Village and Lower East Side that would be affected by the change include Avenue B; Avenue C; St. Mark's Place between First Avenue and Avenue A, and between Second Avenue and Third Avenue; Ludlow Street between Houston and Delancey streets; and East Fourth Street between avenues A and B.
The community board's role in liquor license applications is advisory, with the State Liquor Authority making the final decision. The SLA generally approves all beer and wine licenses, regardless of the community board's view, but CB3 hopes to influence the SLA on earlier closing times.
CB3 will not vote on the proposed policy change until after a public hearing next month, said Alexandra Militano, chairwoman of CB3's SLA Task Force.
"We feel we need more community input before we can come to a decision," she said.
By next week, the board will send a letter to all block and tenant associations that would be affected to let them know about the meeting, which will be held March 28 at 6:30 p.m. at a to-be-determined location.