The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the liquor license of VS Atlantic Industries LLC, doing business as “The Atlantic Boat Club” at 990 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The bar was found operating in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order, requiring restaurants to cease on-premises service of food and alcoholic beverages to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
On April 14th, officers with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and deputies from the New York City Sheriff’s Office conducted a joint inspection of the premises, finding a large group of patrons outside waiting to get in and the front door of the establishment locked. After a security guard opened the front door, the inspection team discovered fourteen patrons packed inside the bar consuming drinks. At the same time, officers outside the bar were confronted by the large group of hostile patrons outside waiting to get in. The licensee, present during the inspection, was issued summonses for violating the Governor’s executive order and directed to empty the premises.
The inspection followed repeated warnings from the NYPD. On March 15th, in violation of the Executive Order mandating businesses remain below fifty percent-capacity, officers discovered eighty-six patrons packed inside the bar with a legal occupancy of only ten. On March 16th an officer with the NYPD returned to the establishment to notify the owner of the new Executive Order prohibiting on-premises sales. Ten days later, on March 26th, NYPD officers found three patrons drinking inside the bar. Finally, on April 15th, the night following the joint inspection and issuance of a summons, the NYPD again found two patrons inside the premises during a follow up inspection.
“Despite repeated warnings, this licensee continued to operate in flagrant defiance of the Governor’s directive, disregarding the health and safety of their patrons, police and the public,” said SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley. “We all need to continue doing everything we can to slow the spread of the coronavirus and there is no excuse for violating these lifesaving protocols.”
On April 23, 2020, the SLA charged the Atlantic Boat Club with several violations, including failure to comply with Executive Orders concerning COVID-19 restaurant restrictions and for its failure to supervise the licensed premises. Licensees charged by the SLA face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation and the potential revocation of their liquor license.
The emergency suspension was ordered by Chairman Vincent Bradley, Commissioner Lily Fan, and Commissioner Greeley Ford at a special meeting of the Full Board, conducted by videotaped conference call under social distancing guidelines, on April 24, 2020.
The State Administrative Procedure Act authorizes a State agency to summarily suspend a license when the agency finds that public health, safety, or welfare requires emergency action. When the SLA summarily suspends a license, it also serves a Notice of Pleading alleging one or more disciplinary violations. In invoking a summary suspension, the SLA has deemed the violation to be sufficiently serious upon initial review to warrant an immediate suspension. The SLA’s decision to summarily suspend a license is not a final determination on the merits of the case. The licensee is entitled to an expedited administrative law hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. An order of summary suspension remains in effect until such time as it is modified by the SLA or a reviewing Court.