Report slams NY liquor authority

The official word is out concerning the embattled State Liquor Authority, a bumbling bureaucracy that has been assailed on many fronts. Not surprisingly, it reinforces most of the long-standing criticisms of the authority.

The first part of the New York State Law Revision Commission's two-part report on findings and recommendations notes:
The SLA's current nine-month backlog of license applications reflects a failure in the licensing process, jeopardizes public health and safety, and exacerbates the economic crisis currently plaguing New York. Small business owners, and some large ones as well, are forced to suffer ever-mounting expenses for months on end without the income generated from having these licenses. The situation deprives the state of new revenues from sales and income taxes, and it depresses the growth of new jobs in local communities.
Despite that sweeping condemnation, apparently the SLA was not found guilty of The Great Train Robbery, the hanging-chad controversy in George Bush's election, or the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

The SLA itself was not alone in being chastised by the Commission. In a slap at some in other branches of state government, the Commission said:
"Some people, including those quite familiar with the SLA's budget, have remarked about the backlog: 'What's the big deal, the state has already banked the license fees, the applicants can wait.' This shortsighted view, to be kind, is nothing less than foolish. The 'What's the big deal‚' advocates both in and out of government basically view the SLA as a 'cash cow‚' and care little about the importance of an expeditious, careful and fair licensing process dedicated to the well-being of New York's citizenry and the State itself. ... A New York County [Manhattan] grand jury is in the midst of concluding a criminal investigation into the bribery of SLA licensing examiners by corrupt 'expediters' that is expected to be completed by the end of October. The State Inspector General is also expected to issue a report in the near future detailing the corruption and other problems in the agency."
Among recommendations made by the Commission:
• The SLA should have the authority to declare a moratorium when it deems that the backlog of licenses has ended.
• Give the SLA the needed number of employees to allow it to carry out its mission.
• The SLA should create two positions of regional manager (one for New York City, and one for Albany, Syracuse and Rochester) to oversee daily administration ... including customer service.
• Develop policies that ensure that enforcement focuses on serious violations with an impact on public safety, and more closely monitor businesses with a history of complaints and violations.
• Investigate non-economic incentives such as those adopted by other State agencies to motivate and reward staff and alter the negative agency culture that has evolved over time."
• Owners of restaurants that have a wine, beer or full liquor license pending should be eligible to secure a BYOB (bring your own bottle) permit.
You can go here to read or download Part 1 of the report. The Commission said it "will evaluate the current structure of the SLA in Part 2 of its report."

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