Albany, NY – The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the license of JG Washington Avenue Corp., doing business as the “Varsity Lounge” at 497 Washington Avenue in Albany today. The suspension was ordered by Chairman Vincent Bradley, Commissioner Lily Fan and Commissioner Greeley Ford at a special meeting of the Full Board on Friday, October 19th . Effective immediately, no alcohol may be sold or consumed on the premises. During the suspension period the SLA intends to seek the permanent cancelation or revocation of the license.
Following recent complaints of underage drinking at the Varsity Lounge, on Friday, October 12th , investigators from the SLA, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the Albany Police Department (APD) conducted a compliance inspection at the premises. SLA undercover investigators entered the premises shortly before 1:00 a.m., observing approximately 150 patrons appearing to be underage packed into the bar with a maximum capacity of 70. At 1:05 a.m., the multi-agency team consisting of the SLA, DMV and APD entered the premises and began checking IDs.
The investigation found 135 patrons under the age of 21, with SLA investigators observing eleven direct sales to minors, in addition to obtaining twenty sworn statements from minors, with thirteen admitting to purchasing alcohol, and seven stating they obtained drinks from other patrons. The underage patrons stated they entered the bar after paying a $20 cover charge using their actual driver’s license showing they were under 21, a college ID, or no ID at all. In addition, the DMV ticketed twelve minors for possessing false identification.
On October 17th, the SLA charged the Varsity Lounge with 41 violations of the ABC Law, including 31 counts for selling to a minor, exceeding maximum occupancy, employing unlicensed bouncers, paying employees off the books, and failure to supervise.
“This licensee has displayed an alarming indifference to the law by pursuing a business plan seemingly based on nothing more than primarily serving alcoholic beverages to our youth,” said Counsel to the Authority Christopher R. Riano. “I thank our partners at the DMV and the Albany Police Department, and commend the Members of the Authority for sending a clear message today that bar owners that place profits above public safety, and the personal safety of minors, will be immediately closed.”
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.
Video of the Special Full Board Meeting is available here: https://bit.ly/2OySu1d
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