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CB12 Considers 2 A.M. Cutoff For New Nightclubs Seeking Liquor License

By Claudio Cabrera | October 4, 2012 11:50am

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A night on the town might end a little earlier north of 155th Street if a plan proposed by Community Board 12 gains traction.

Community Board 12's Licensing Committee is considering preventing new liquor license applicants from applying for a liquor license past 2 a.m., because of the mounting quality of life complaints that have been levied in the Inwood and Washington Heights community.

Committee acting chair George Fernandez led a discussion over the controversial proposal, which sparked heated debate.

"It has become in this neighborhood that a liquor license is now a form of entrepreneurship," said Fernandez. "It's time that we take back control of our neighborhoods. And I point to the muggings, the filled emergency rooms, the noise, the fights, etc., as a reason why we should consider this."

When asked by Licensing Committee member Elizabeth Lorris Ritter if a new business who was granted a 2 a.m. license came back after a year and requested a time extension, what would his response be, Fernandez said "We are just discussing this, there's more to come."

While the proposal is in its infancy stages, the majority of the seven person committee said they would support some for of restriction if brought up for vote.

"I used to work in the restaurant industry and there is a huge difference between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., and I think it would be a benefit to our community," member Anina Young said.

But not everyone agreed.

CB12 member Ariel Ferreira said he understood Fernandez's intention, but expresed concern that the move would frustrate many community members and business owners who support the nightlife scene in the neighborhood.

"Its going to be tough, because many will not go to a club where they can't stay at until 4 a.m.," he said. "Why go somewhere where liquor is stopped from being served at 2 am when you can go somewhere that does so til 4 a.m. and you don't have to change locations?"

Ferreira was joined by board member Richard Lewis in agreeing the plan will need further development.

"We may want to restrict certain places or areas from serving liquor up until 2 a.m. and others not," Ferreira. "That may be a better way of going about it with more statistical information to back it."

Though the State Liquor Authority typically allows establishments to serve liquor until 4 a.m., there are examples in the city of 2 a.m. rules proposed in the East and West Village where Community Boards 2 and 3 have impose earlier closing hours on certain liquor-serving establishments.

Oscar Napa, owner of Locksmith Wine and Beer Bar on 192nd Street and Broadway, said that the proposal is a bad idea.

"It's totally unfair, because as small businesses we should be allowed to make every dollar we can," said Napa. "Things are still rough out there economically and if I can make an extra $100 bucks in two hours, add that by seven days, a month and then a year, that makes a huge difference for us," concluded Napa.

"While I understand their concerns, not all of us run night clubs. Some of us actually take care and pride in our small businesses," said Napa.

Editor's Note: Board member Richard Lewis was inaccurately identified in a previous version of this story. The story has also been edited to specify that the committee was open to discussing some form of restriction.