WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Nearly a year after State Sen. Adriano Espaillat announced a one-year liquor license freeze for new bars seeking to open in Inwood, the community board said it would no longer cooperate, adding it won’t act on laws “that don’t exist.”
The moratorium, which was proposed by Espaillat in October 2015 and accepted by Community board 12 in December, was supposed to be a placeholder while Espaillat introduced legislation in Albany that would seek to tamp down on the surge in new on-premises liquor license applications in Inwood since 2012, officials said at the time.
For months, CB12 voted down new liquor license applications amid Espaillat’s request that the community “stick together” and support the yearlong ban, which was supposed to block new licenses in the area between Hillside Avenue, 10th Avenue and the tip of Northern Manhattan.
In June, however, CB12 members proposed and passed a resolution that “any resolution that includes reference to the proposed moratorium” be amended to exclude the moratorium language.
And on Tuesday night at CB12's general board meeting, Aldemar Diaz, chairman of the liquor licensing committee, drew the line more forcefully, saying that since Espaillat had yet to pass his moratorium bill in Albany, and was slated to move out of the office at the end of the year, they would no longer honor the moratorium, since “it doesn’t exist.”
"Since the sponsor of the legislation will no longer be a member of the [state Senate], I wonder if it will ever become law. That said, this board is not acting on laws that don’t exist," said Diaz. "If your proposal [is] that we remove the language of this imaginary moratorium, I think it’s a good idea.”
CB12 member Ayisha Oglivie, who spearheaded the push against the moratorium in June, said Tuesday that the board could no longer continue it without any momentum from Espaillat.
“There is no moratorium,” Oglivie said. “With all due respect, we understand that it’s a bill and that the bill is going to be voted on, but it has not yet.”
Espaillat representative Laurie Tobias Cohen, who was present at Tuesday's CB12 meeting, insisted the bill was still pending, and urged the board to continue to support it.
“I’m here to ask that the community board continue the moratorium, we’re seeing a reduction in the number of complaints coming into the office,” Cohen said, adding that the moratorium was slated to continue until Espaillat’s term ends at the end of December when he will take a seat in Congress.
Jacob Potent, director of communications for Espaillat, said in a statement to DNAinfo New York that "there is a consensus in our community that our neighborhood has become saturated with liquor licenses. As a result, many of us came together, including Community Board 12, to call for a freeze on all 'on premise' liquor licenses in Inwood. This action has led to a very real reduction in the number of new liquor licenses. Senator Espaillat will continue to vigorously oppose any new 'on premise' liquor licenses for the remainder of the moratorium period and will continue to look for new and innovative solutions to the quality of life issues that prompted us to come together to call for a moratorium."
Katharine Pichardo, a spokeswoman for Marisol Alcantara, who won the Democratic nomination for Espaillat's State Senate District 31 seat, said Alcantara plans to pick up the moratorium bill as soon as she takes office in January.
Even without the moratorium in place, CB12 narrowly voted down the licensing resolution for Cliff Lounge on 440 W. 202nd St. — 19 in favor, 19 opposed and 1 abstention — after a member passed around images from the bar's social media images that showed women dancing partially nude on poles inside the club with dollar bills on the floor.
Cabarets or strip clubs requires a special license from the State Liquor Authority, which the bar does not have, they said. But the NYPD had not opposed the bar, they added. Cliff Lounge's management could not immediately be reached for comment.
They also rejected a license application from Pat’e Palo on 251-253 Dyckman St. in Inwood, citing concerns about a late-filed request for live music inside, with 16 in favor and 23 opposing the change. The bar had been approved at the committee level with 4 in favor and 1 opposed. The NYPD did not oppose the bar.
However, the board amended and passed a request for a liquor license from the Mexican Beauty Corp bar at 3803 10th Ave. — previously Negro Claro Lounge. The 34th Precinct had opposed the bar's permit, citing 24 violations, ranging from illegal use of gas to not having a permit on the window, the chair said.