Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Conflict of Interest

As you may remember, last week I was all hot and bothered about a meeting I attended at my local Community Board. One of the issues I pondered about was the conflict of interest of bar owners serving on the board who are allowed to vote on policy that, by their own admission will impact the value of their business (fact point: only one of the three on the committee who were present phrased it in such clear terms).

At tonight's full board meeting where the vote was scheduled to take place on the recommended new policy of the committee, it was announced that in fact the conflict of interest city attorney (or some such fancy title) ruled that they should not be allowed to vote on this one issue, but they were allowed to participate in all discussion.

In the end, it turned out that the "transfer" policy in contention, as advocated by the bar owners, was rolled back, by vote of the full board. The bar owners wouldn't have had the votes anyways so appealing the decision on their votes won't matter. One thing I did notice was if they hadn't spent so much energy arguing about "being gagged" they might have spent more time making a stronger case for their ideas.

And so we travel onward...


rob said...

Too bad the bar owners on the CB didn't vote tonight -- if they had voted, the public would have seen that they are the only CB members in favor of a policy designed to provide financial insurance to bar owners' licenses and invite more bars specifically to CD3, since no other CB has such license insurance policy.

The effect of the actual vote may eventually restore the neighborhood to the '500-foot-rule' standard, lower commercial rents and bring local-serving commercial diversity. If we don't get chain stores...

Shawn Chittle said...

+1 on what Rob said.

Once landlords come to the realization holding out for "another bar" is not likely due to the hard-fought policies we have lobbied for, we'll see retail diversity and a sense of "village" return to the neighborhood. I for one am not going anyway and welcome the future!

Bowery Boy said...

Amen to the previous comments. It's too bad that new bar owners trying to get into the neighborhood don't get to see in advance that these SLA policies have created a small fish syndrome: There are so many of them that very few live to grow up. If there were fewer bars, then they'd have a better chance of surviving for more than 3 yrs, instead of spreading their buyers over too many suppliers; and then, CB3 might not have to work so hard at reviewing new ones again and again and... . These rules are perverting the very capitalism the owners claim is being denied.

rob said...

Bar density creates a nightlife strip which actually brings more non-local patrons. More bars actually create more patronage, not more competition. That's why these bar owners wanted to ensure transfers -- there's more money in it as more bars come in.

That's why last night's vote was so important. The market for bars doesn't regulate itself. It has had no limit, until now. Unfortunately, the CB is grandfathering all the current licenses -- current licensees may still transfer. That's unfair for new licensees. It's a gift of an insurance policy to current licensees, among whom sit on the Community Board.

The current bar owners complained that depriving transfer rights would change the game midstream. According to them, they came here understanding that they'd be able to sell their licenses at the highest rate.

But in any business, there are risks -- new competition, recessions, change in popularity. If the bars were a vital benefit to the neighborhood, the CB might want to intervene to assist. But the bars prey on our neighborhood, annoy the locals, choke out local-serving businesses, contribute to gentrification and contribute very little else. Their argument is not "we are a precious community resource at risk." Their argument is "your policy to promote the community will steal a collusive business insurance policy and cost us a bit of cash." It's all about their own money. Not a word about community except "if you lose us, you'll get chain stores." I don't see them working on that problem. Their only solution to it is "more bars" and, conveniently for them, insure their finances.