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Liquor Licenses Latest Weapon Against Bad Biking by Deliverymen

By Amy Zimmer | May 14, 2012 7:12am
After a deliveryman working for Denny Dong was spotted riding on the sidewalk, his restaurant couldn't get a a wine and beer license.
After a deliveryman working for Denny Dong was spotted riding on the sidewalk, his restaurant couldn't get a a wine and beer license.
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DNAinfo/Amy Zimmer

YORKVILLE — The Upper East Side’s latest weapon in the fight against bad biking is putting up roadblocks to liquor licenses because of cycling violations.

The local community board amended its liquor license approval rules a few months ago and will now only support applications when owners agree to abide by bicycle guidelines such as not riding on sidewalks, having proper equipment and not using electric bikes.

Adam's Chinese restaurant — which does business under the name Vicky's Cottage — on Second Avenue and East 91st Street, was the first to see the impact of the new rules.

The State Liquor Authority denied its wine and beer license application last month after two members of Community Board 8 spotted one of its deliverymen riding an electric bike on the sidewalk.

The board members’ sighting came days after the owner had told the board he’d put a stop to such practices, according to CB 8 officials.

“I thought the NYPD takes care of this stuff,” Vicky's Cottage owner Denny Dong said of bike violations.

“My delivery workers don’t even drink anything. They’re biking. They’re here to make a living.”

Dong said he fired the worker spotted on the sidewalk. He also fired another worker who was reported to have cycled on the sidewalk, but he didn’t know what other action he could take.

He said he couldn’t control his workers, who are under pressure to meet the demands of hungry customers who complain when their food isn’t delivered fast enough. They prefer to use electric bikes, he said, when biking far distances of 20 blocks or so.

“We try to tell delivery guys, don’t ride on the sidewalk,” Dong said.

“I say [to the community] if you see anyone [biking the wrong way] wearing my red T-shirts, take photos, and tell me. That’s all I can do. You want me to put a camera on their bodies?”

Business at Vicky's has already been hurt by the construction of the Second Avenue subway. On a recent Friday night, there were zero customers inside.

Because the restaurant is less crowded, Dong depends more heavily on delivery, he said.

While appetites for delivery on the Upper East Side don’t appear to be waning, outrage over cyclist behavior is rampant. City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin’s survey of 1,305 constituents found 72 percent of those polled said they have been hit or nearly hit by a delivery bike.

Of those questioned, 70 percent also said the city does not enforce bike rules enough, and 69 percent said they wanted the city to raise fines for operating the illegal electric bikes.

“We have a lot of people in the neighborhood who are frightened by commercial cyclists,” said David Rosenstein, one of the community board members who witnessed the worker on the sidewalk.

It’s an especially sore point for Rosenstein. He was hit two years ago crossing Second Avenue by a delivery worker passing a red light riding north on the southbound street. Rosenstein still has back problems because of the accident, he said.

“From 6 to 7 o’clock at night, it’s like a swarm of flies out there,” Rosenstein said of the delivery cyclists.

When Vicky’s Cottage came before the community board’s Street Life Committee on Feb. 7, members told Dong — who was applying for a new license for the 20-year-old restaurant after taking it over from his cousin — that his delivery workers had been seen violating several rules, including riding e-bikes or not wearing proper identifying or safety gear.

Dong told the committee he would address the issues, board members said. However, a few days later — just before the issue came for a final vote before the full board on Feb. 15 — Street Life Committee co-chair, Domenico Minerva, and Rosenstein said they almost ran into the Vicky’s Cottage worker on the sidewalk. The full board voted the application down.

“The community board raised some public safety concerns,” SLA spokesman William Crowley said about the agency’s April 24 denial of Vicky's.

“The owner more or less told the board that he can’t control his delivery people. … If a potential licensee says he can’t control employees, it raises concerns about controlling over-drinking or minors.”

Crowley acknowledged that bike behavior was “not the typical issue” community boards have raised. More common are concerns about noise and crowds, but he added, “The community board tried to work with the licensee.

"We expect them to deal with the community board in good faith. If they don’t do that, it’s not a good sign.”

Community Board 8 also asks owners applying for licenses to agree to keep the front of their establishments clean and free of A-frames and to not participate in pub crawls.