The City Council is getting behind proposals that would raise the minimum age of entry to bars and clubs to 18 and require stricter monitoring of the popular "bottle service" offered at high-end nightspots in the five boroughs.
Fed up with the State Liquor Authority, the council also is calling for the city to have its own agency to enforce nightlife laws.
In a report to be issued today, the council says the state agency has "proven ill-equipped to identify and preemptively deal with the city's nightlife problems before they get out of hand."
The council wants the state Legislature to authorize the city to create its own alcohol beverage control board, according to the report, which was obtained by The New York Sun.
The recommendations stem from a September summit on nightlife safety convened by the council speaker, Christine Quinn, to address violent incidents that had resulted in the death of several people who had been out at city bars and clubs.
The proposals also come as the State Liquor Authority yesterday issued its own report proposing changes to the liquor license applications and to give the agency more resources and access to criminal records of club personnel. The council's recommendations go much further, and in criticizing the SLA they prolong a rift that has developed between city and state officials over the enforcement of liquor laws in the five boroughs.
Many of the proposals would require state legislation, and the council is expected to lobby lawmakers in Albany next year.
Representatives of the nightlife industry, who have clashed with city lawmakers in the past, lauded many of the proposals and praised Ms. Quinn for listening to concerns of club owners and agreeing to compromises.
A lawyer for the New York Nightlife Association, Robert Bookman, said the industry had no problem with raising the age of entry to 18 from 16, and generally supported the idea of mandating monitoring of bottle service, a practice where patrons often pay hundreds of dollars for bottles of liquor to reserve a private table. The service is popular in high-end clubs, but some lawmakers have called for it to be banned, saying it encourages excessive drinking. "It's a good compromise," Mr. Bookman said of the council proposal, which does not specify how the service should be monitored.
One idea is to require waiters to pour each drink, so they could see how much each person has had to drink. "I think there's a concern of sitting four down with a bottle and then walking away. I think that makes sense," Mr. Bookman said.
A spokesman for the State Liquor Authority, William Crowley, said the agency could not comment on proposals that would require state legislation.
Regarding the criticism of the liquor authority as "ill-equipped" to deal with the city's nightlife issues, Mr. Crowley noted that the agency had called for more resources in its report but said enforcement had improved over the last year. "I think we're addressing the problems, and we've made a lot of progress," he said.
The council is also urging a working group between the nightlife industry and the Police Department, which have long been at odds over enforcement and security issues. But the council is not backing an industry proposal to allow nightclubs to hire off-duty police officers as security details. In rejecting the idea, the council is avoiding a confrontation with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who has steadfastly opposed the plan.