SLA Head Promises Stricter Enforcement, Elimination of Application Backlog

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Yesterday, the SLA’s new chairman, Dennis Rosen, updated the New York State Assembly on his efforts to meet concerns addressed in a two-year study, conducted by
the New York State Law Revision Commission, that accused the agency of incompetence and worse. Rosen’s statement is viewable below, but the good news is this: August’s backlog of 3,000 pending applications has been reduced to under 2,000 — and Rosen has vowed to eliminate it entirely by October. There’s also bad news for New York City operators (i.e., that the Authority, which is based in Albany, has increased its presence in New York City by moving its deputy CEO, a former Manhattan A.D.A., to the city). As a result, the SLA, according to Rosen, “has recently been aggressively suspending or revoking the licenses of problematic establishments.” More highlights straight ahead.

• Addressing criticism of a new program that fast-tracks applications by allowing an applicant’s attorney to vow that everything in it is correct; Rosen pointed out that self-certified applications are scrutinized by the Authority and lawyers are punished for abusing the system.

• The Authority has made technological advances such as allowing an applicant to submit digital photographs and fingerprints. They’re also looking for someone to consolidate their databases, as previously reported on Grub Street.

• “Because much of the problems within the agency have emanated from our New York City office, we have moved our Deputy CEO position from Albany to New York City, and reorganized Counsel’s Office so that our newly hired Counsel is based in New York City as opposed to Albany.”

• Senior application reviewers have been assigned to deal with the application backlog, and incomplete applications are no longer being accepted.

• “Our Deputy CEO in NYC is a former Manhattan Asst. District Attorney with extensive law enforcement contacts, and our newly hired Director of Enforcement is a 30-year police professional, who had a highly successful eight-year tenure as the first female Chief of Police in Indiana. Having these quality professionals on the job has allowed our agency to stretch our resources by forging partnerships with local law enforcement agencies across the state. The agency is refocusing our enforcement priorities. We are getting away from counting fruit flies in bottles to cracking down on underage drinking, sales to intoxicated patrons, and the bars and nightclubs that wreak havoc on their neighborhoods. The Emergency Summary Suspension is a regulatory tool that we are employing more than ever before.”

• “The agency recently hired an Internal Auditor, who is a forensic accountant, certified fraud examiner and experienced systems analyst. She is working with the Information Technology Unit, the Enforcement Bureau and the Hearing Bureau to improve and modernize workflow procedures.”

• “The Authority’s new Deputy CEO, based in New York City, has utilized his extensive law enforcement contacts, particularly within the NYPD, to begin a new era of collaboration between the Authority and law enforcement agencies in downstate NY. For example, he has: (1) met with NYPD Chief of Vice Connors who has agreed to make his officers available for underage sting operations; (2) partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Enforcement to target locations in New York City that have become focal points of police and/or community concern; and (3) joined with the NYPD in implementing new methods for the expeditious sharing of information.”

• Rosen said he had hired college interns to help in underage drinking prevention and was working with the police to identify establishments associated with DWI busts.

Also of note, Rosen goes against LRC’s recommendation that BYOB be allowed at establishments that are waiting for a license — instead, he says that operators should be granted temporary licenses while they await their permanent license. “Attacking the backlog and increasing the eligibility for temporary retail permits, rather than allowing BYOB, are the more appropriate means to address the current delays in the application process,” Rosen testified.

STATEMENT SUBMITTED BY DENNIS ROSEN, CHAIRMAN, NEW YORK STATE LIQUOR AUTHORITY [SLA]