SLA hears unease over late-nite liquor sales at Barclays

June 21, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Late-night sales of liquor at Barclays Center appear to still be a sticking point in the adjacent community, judging by Wednesday night's State Liquor Authority’s hearing.

The authority will hold a board meeting, open to the public, in the middle of the summer, at which time it will vote on the proposal, said spokesman William Crowley.

About 50 people attended Wednesday's hearing, even though it was held at some distance from Barclays' Prospect Heights home — in Harlem.

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Many of those who testified expressed concern about Forest City Ratner’s belated revelation that several “premium clubs” and restaurants on the premises will be able to serve liquor until 2 a.m. This information was not made public until after a well-attended community hearing on the subject in April at Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct.

Forest City representatives at the meeting apologized that this had not been disclosed sooner.

“I was at the meeting in April [which was jointly sponsored by community boards 2 and 6], and there were plenty of questions about liquor service. They had plenty of time to disclose this issue if they had wanted to do so,” replied Gib Veconi, treasurer or the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council.

The arena straddles community board districts 2 and 6. Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, said the stance of his board remains unchanged — it voted in May to “conditionally approve” a liquor license for the arena, but asked that “the applicant stop serving alcohol either before the third quarter of NBA games, or one hour before the end of any other event,” in addition to several non-alcohol-related conditions.

At the April meeting, a Barclays representative said the arena would comply with NBA rules, which cut off liquor sales after the third quarter, at Nets games, but was somewhat vague about concerts and other non-sports events.

Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, said his board’s position is likewise unchanged, but that the board is “very disappointed” that the applicant didn’t fully disclose the premium-restaurant late alcohol service. Board 2 also had approved a liquor license with similar conditions to Board 6.

At Wednesday's hearing, Robert Witherwax, second vice chair of Community Board 8, which is near the arena but does not include it, weighed in on the controversy.

Citing the expected increased foot traffic and possible disruption in the Prospect Heights potion of his community, he proposed an even earlier cutoff time for liquor sales — 10 p.m.

“Most of the people who were at the hearing oppose late-night sales of liquor,” said Witherwax. “Most people agreed with our position — the earlier the better!”

Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council stressed that “opposition to a liquor license is not based on the belief that Barclays Center should not serve alcohol.” Rather, he said, the arena needs to cooperate with the wishes of the community.

Crowley of the liquor authority said that the state mandated closing time for alcohol-serving venues is 4 a.m., but that exceptions for earlier times “are made all the time at the request of community boards.” He also said that stipulations can be added to liquor licenses.

Barry Baum, senior vice president of communications for Barclays Center, commented, “We are grateful for the support of community boards 2 and 6 and look forward to continuing to work with the community about its concerns.”

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