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Espaillat Says His Rejected Ban on Inwood Liquor Licenses Worked

By Carolina Pichardo | December 22, 2016 2:22pm | Updated on December 23, 2016 4:10pm
 Congressman-elect Adriano Espaillat said Inwood saw a reduction of three licenses this past year due to his proposed yearlong moratorium.
Congressman-elect Adriano Espaillat said Inwood saw a reduction of three licenses this past year due to his proposed yearlong moratorium.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

INWOOD — Congressman-elect Adriano Espaillat applauded his so-called moratorium on liquor licenses, crediting the initiative with cutting down on the number bars Uptown — even though the local community board continued to approve licenses throughout the year before rejecting the idea outright in September.

The moratorium — intended to ban new on-premises liquor licenses in Inwood for a full year — was presented to the board around this time last year, prior to Espaillat introducing a similar bill in Albany.

Despite the state senator touting the ban, the board continued to approve at least a dozen liquor license applications before announcing in September that it would no longer cooperate with the plan because Espaillat's bill hadn't progressed and they could not “act on laws that don’t exist.”

►Adriano Espaillat's 'Imaginary' Ban on Uptown Bar Licenses Rejected by CB12

On Tuesday, however, Espaillat said the board's short-lived support for the ban did yield some results.

“During that year, not only did we not see an increase of liquor licenses… but we actually saw a reduction by three,” Espaillat said, adding that the State Liquor Authority reached out to his team and said “they were taking into consideration” the senator's position on the moratorium.

Espaillat, CB12 and the State Liquor Authority could not say how many licenses were approved in 2015 and 2016.

The board said it didn't keep count, while Espaillat noted he crunched the numbers based on the SLA's calculations. Still, he could not provide firm numbers from this year and last.

The SLA did not respond to a request for comment. 

Espaillat added that the liquor licensing approval process is currently "arbitrary" and appears to be based on “our personal likes and dislikes.”

“The criteria should be one that is transparent, that is fair, equitable — that is not arbitrary… that will take into account, first and foremost, what the collective opinion of that neighborhood is,” the senator said.

Jairo de La Paz, who applied for a liquor license for his forthcoming restaurant Fat Pig at 120 Dyckman St., agreed with Espaillat's statements at the the board's general meeting on Tuesday.

De La Paz, whose earlier application was rejected because his would-be restaurant is located less than 500 feet from another business with an on-premise liquor license, said the whole process is too cloaked in secrecy.

“What I find weird is that since you’re honoring the moratorium, I see the restaurant right next to me, you guys granted it a liquor license, and as the congressman said, everyone has to be equal,” he said. "I don’t think it’s fair that other places opened have a full liquor license… how come they have a full liquor license and I don’t now?

De La Paz did receive approval for his liquor license by CB12 in June, but the SLA ultimately rejected it. He returned to the board Tuesday to again make his case.

The restaurant sits on the same block as 809 Restaurant, at 112 Dyckman St., and Dyckman Express, at 101 Dyckman St., which both have liquor licenses. Also on the block is the future site of Chino Latino at 122 Dyckman St., which has been approved by CB12 for a liquor license

De La Paz noted he was just trying to be a "good restaurateur."

“Before you vote on Fat Pig, please do research on me, on my style of work," he said. "I just know other people have had their licenses and probably they don’t serve as much as me, and I don’t think it’s fair.”

After De La Paz's plea, Fat Pig was granted approval for its liquor license Tuesday — with 20 members in favor and 10 opposed.

However, the board did shoot down an on-premises liquor license renewal for Tabaco & Ron at 501 W. 214th St., as well a renewal of the unenclosed sidewalk café at Café Tabu at 225 Dyckman St.

They also voted against a bid by Dyckman Billiards, at 100 Dyckman St., to change its license from tavern wine to on-premise, while approving El Tina Restaurant Lounge and Billiards, at 500 W. 207th St., for an on-premise renewal.

The vote, 18 for and 10 against, came despite the 34th Precinct outlining a history of problems at the establishment, including numerous assaults and double-parking citations.