Following the second killing allegedly committed by a bouncer this year, the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, and a Council member, Peter Vallone Jr., yesterday announced they had lost faith in the State Liquor Authority's ability to enforce the law.
The officials announced they would put forward legislation that would use the city's Nuisance Abatement Law to punish bars that hire criminal bouncers - a role the State Liquor Authority has had since its inception.
"The State Liquor Authority has not listened to communities when they have begged for relief," Ms. Quinn said. The new legislation would also require periodic drug tests for bouncers and hold club owners responsible for finding out if bouncers are carrying illegal weapons, as was the case with the latest killing.
At about 11 p.m. on Tuesday, a bouncer with a .45 caliber handgun opened fire on four men outside the Opus 22 club on West 22nd Street and 11th Avenue, police said. He killed one clubgoer, put another in critical condition, and wounded two others, police said. The bouncer, identified by police as Stephen Sakai, turned himself at a Brooklyn Precinct house near his home early yesterday morning. He was in police custody yesterday and was expected to be formally charged last night. He was not registered to carry a handgun, police said. Mr. Sakai allegedly shot the men when they insisted on being let back into the club after they were kicked out to make way for a private party.
After Tuesday's killing and the alleged murder of Imette St. Guillen by ex-convict Darryl Littlejohn in February, Mr. Vallone said he and Ms. Quinn were forced to act quickly.
"If the state enforced the law, we may have been able to prevent some of these bar tragedies," he said.
A State Liquor Authority spokesman, Bill Crowley, said he couldn't comment on the legislation until he sees it, but said the claims that they weren't investigating and prosecuting cases were groundless. Between January 1st and May 23rd, the authority has statewide canceled 114 licenses, suspended 57 licenses, revoked 57 licenses, and ordered seven summary suspensions, he said.
The authority only has 28 investigators, and local law enforcement is supposed to handle enforcing the drinking age, breaking up bar fights, and arresting negligent bouncers, he said. The New York State Department, which certifies security guards, also follows up on complaints of bouncers hired under the table or without the proper background checks. The authority's role is to punish the bar owners for letting the crimes happen in their establishments.
A lobbyist for the New York City Nightlife Association, Robert Bookman, said the State Liquor Authority needs more resources and the New York Police Department needs to do more enforcement, but the city doesn't need more legislation.
"I think there are enough laws on the books to deal with the bad apples," he said.