Nightlife industry leaders yesterday tried to counter claims that there is a widespread security problem at the city's bars and clubs.
Following the recent murders of two young women who had been out drinking in Manhattan, politicians throughout the region have said the city's nightlife sector is in a state of crisis. At a hearing yesterday before the state Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, representatives from the New York Nightlife Association sought to dispel that notion, and warned against measures that would diminish a key source of revenue for the city.
"New York City nightlife establishments are safe and under control," an attorney for the association, Robert Bookman, told the committee. "The real crisis is the slow killing of this important industry, one that will have a major impact on jobs, taxes, and tourism if it continues unabated."
Mr. Bookman also criticized the State Liquor Authority's decision on Wednesday to impose a four-month moratorium on granting new licenses to clubs, bars, and cabarets on Manhattan streets where at least three other nightspots are open within 500 feet. That decision caught both industry and elected leaders by surprise, and even in praising the moratorium as "a step in the right direction," the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, expressed concern that the liquor authority announced the ban without any prior consultation.
Over the course of the hearing, there appeared to be no shortage of causes blamed for nightlife complaints associated with violence, underage drinking, and excessive noise. To Mr. Bookman, it was the lack of a crackdown on the makers of fake IDs and those that use them. To some officials, it was a lack of enforcement by the liquor authority. To others, the problem centers on the sheer number of clubs and bars, and the late hours when they close.
The committee chairman, Nicholas Spano, a Republican of Yonkers, has introduced a bill that would mandate the use of ID-scanning machines in clubs and bars. He indicated yesterday that more legislation might be on the way.In the City Council, such a measure has already been proposed, and a summit on nightlife security is planned for later this month.
The SLA's chairman, Daniel Boyle, tried to signal that the era of a lax liquor authority is over. "My message to bar and nightclub owners is simple," he told the committee. "Comply with the law, or it may be your last call."