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Ban on Pub Crawls Brewing on the East Side

By Amy Zimmer | June 24, 2011 10:08am | Updated on June 23, 2011 8:39pm
A bar full of beer awaited early morning revelers at McSorley's Old Alehouse in the East Village for St. Patrick's.
A bar full of beer awaited early morning revelers at McSorley's Old Alehouse in the East Village for St. Patrick's.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

GRAMERCY — Is the city's first pub crawl ban on tap?

That's the hope of some residents in the bar-laden east side area of Community Board 6, which stretches from 14th to 59th streets.

Members of CB 6's Business Affairs and Street Life Committee discussed a draft resolution Thursday night that would call on various state and city agencies and officials to help them crack down on organized bar-hopping.

"We personally as Community Board 6 can't ban them," committee vice chair Stephen Dubnoff said. "We are asking the city and everyone else to help us stop them. More than that we cannot do."

It was the fourth meeting over several months addressing the issue, which was sparked by the rowdiness that ensued around St. Patrick's Day when Groupon offered an online coupon promoting a three-day pub crawl billed as a chance to drink "copious amounts of beer" and to hang out with "fellow rowdy hooligans."

The sanctioned binge drinking outraged many of the committee's members, who said their streets turned into a giant public sewer for vomit and loud potty-mouthed drunkards, who residents say are overwhelmingly young.

"That's what they want you to do: drink yourself silly and join your fellow hooligans," Dubnoff said.

As the Murray Hill area has become a hotspot for the college and post-collegiate set in recent years, the bars scene has exploded.

The state's Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, which says that alcohol is the most popular substance used by New York college students, found that 49 percent of students aged 18 to 25 surveyed reported binge drinking in the previous two weeks, 54 percent of whom were male and 45 percent female.

"It is clearly not in the public interest to have large groups who have abused alcohol roaming the streets," Dubnoff read from the draft resolution.

Robert Bookman of the New York Nightlife Association — which opposes such a ban — said there are already laws on the books that address such problems and others, like underage drinking.

"There are plenty of current laws that if properly enforced there's no issue with pub crawls," he said.

He doesn't see how anyone can stop young people drinking from bar to bar in the course of a night, whether its self organized or through a group.

"The marketplace is the marketplace," he said, adding that liquor regulations would be out of City Council's hands and would have to be a state issue.

"They can call that the anti-St. Patrick's drinking law," he joked.

The CB 6 committee has taken action in other ways.

When bars apply for new or renewal liquor licenses, they are asked to sign a document that includes a clause not to participate in pub crawls (among other stipulations, such as closing at 2 a.m. instead of the legally sanctioned 4 a.m.)

The committee said its efforts to stem pub crawls already had letters of support from community groups — including the Sutton Area Community, the Turtle Bay Association and Gramercy Neighborhood Associates. They plan to garner more backers before they finalize the language of the resolution and present it to the full board, which doesn't meet again until September.

"It is an interesting concept. We look forward to working on it over the net few months," CB 6 Chair Mark Thompson said. "Other community boards may follow our lead."

No one from the neighborhood — either for or against such a ban — came to Thursday's meeting to speak out about the proposal, though a few residents came to voice complaints against specific establishments.

Because of the rash of bars in the area, committee members discussed having a forum in October where residents can address problem venues.