Last night the community board held their final open meeting about revising their policies on liquor license approvals. It is now 24 hours later and I'm still stark raving mad about the whole thing. I could only stay for an hour due to a Chinese food commitment that, if broken, would have brought bad luck for at least another year. So I can't tell you how the meeting ended, only how it started, which is badly....
... when I got yelled at for cross talking, when in fact it was my turn to speak and I was defending myself against a bully who was trying to shout me down.
I would like to ask the question of the public: is there another kind of business besides restaurants and bars that is allowed to traffic in state or city issued licenses for profit? Taxis? Hot dog vendors? I honestly don't know how those licenses work but am curious to know if this is status quo for all licensed ventures, or just liquor licenses. Doctors can't sell their license. I can't sell my drivers license, but is that only because there is no market for it, or because it is frowned upon? This is a burning question.
As a non-politician, and merely an interested citizen, what is so stunning to my innocent self, is that people who have a financial interest in profiting from the rules of how liquor licenses are approved for recommendation by the Community Board (they don't actually approve licenses, only make a recommendation to the SLA), also have a vote in how those rules will be created. They say they've been over this with the lawyers, but I still can't wrap my mind around it. I believe it is the very definition of cronyism.
The issue is thus (very briefly, it's much more complex): the bar owners are insistent that when applicants are buying a liquor license from an existing owner, the community board ought to approve the "transfer" without much review, ie a rubber stamp. The reason for this is because if they apply any stipulations (close their windows by 10pm or no live music) then that reduces the value of how much the owner can sell their liquor license for. That is because when restaurants and bars fail, they can get upwards of $100,000 for their liquor license if they can find a new sucker to buy it, and suckers there are aplenty. So they are rewarded for failed businesses, supported by the policies of the community board. I cannot think of another business that gets this benefit, based on having a state-issued license in your pocket. A guarantee of big money, even if you fail. Supported by our community board, all our elected officials, and the state liquor authority. Which does make me think that there must be something I'm missing, I just don't know what it is. I seek enlightenment.
In short, the bar owners, who are members of the community board, have a vote on making this policy, which has an impact on the value of their liquor licenses. Huh?
So there are two issues: one, a state issued license can be sold and bought right in the open air, not underground, under the table, or out of sight, right there in broad daylight. And second, a member of the community board whose business is impacted financially by the decisions made by the board, can vote on these issues. Not only do they have power to keep the value of the licenses inflated, but they can also, in effect, choose their competition with the power they have to approve or deny license recommendations.
I'm not sure I'm explaining this clearly, but if you read this far, thanks for listening, I'm still kind of ranting about it because I'm some kind of crazy nutjob who thinks things should be fair, when I know, I know they are not.
Commenters, if you are so inclined, please be polite or I will delete you. Cross talking and intelligent conversation is allowed, personal attacks and hate is not.