The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the license of The Empire Lounge, LLC, doing business as “The Empire Lounge,” at 443 5th Avenue in Troy 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 November 4, 2022. Effective immediately, no alcohol may be sold or consumed on the premises.
The suspension follows numerous instances requiring the Troy Police Department (TPD) to respond to citizen complaints regarding noise, disturbances, parking issues and litter around the establishment, in addition to operating after the closing hours of 2 a.m. as mandated by the City of Troy’s operation plan for the premises.
During a joint inspection on August 6, 2022, SLA investigators and officers with the TPD met with the premises manager, who is the spouse of the owner, to discuss the numerous issues arising at and around the business in addition to the frequent complaints lodged by city residents. The manager, who erroneously represented himself as the owner of the business while not on the license, assured officers that steps would be taken to ensure compliance both inside and around the premises. However, just over a month later, on September 10th, Troy Police Captain Montanino reports issuing a warning to the manager after observing the business operating at 3:15 a.m., in violation of the City’s plan.
Following additional complaints, on October 29, 2022, TPD officers attempted to conduct a check of the premises shortly after 2:00 a.m., finding the business operating well over capacity, with officers estimating 120 patrons inside the premises that has a legal maximum occupancy of just 60. Officers found the front doors locked and were unlawfully denied entry to the premises by the businesses’ manager, who, along with security staff and patrons, aggressively hurled insults and threats of physical violence at officers, as captured on video. The business was cited for city code violations including operating over capacity with the doors to the business locked. While officers made no arrests that night due to heightened tensions and safety concerns, TPD reports issuing a “shutdown order” by the City of Troy.
On November 3, 2022, the SLA charged The Empire Lounge with multiple violations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, including becoming a focal point for police attention, sustained pattern of noise and disorder, disorderly premises, use of security guards in violation of their approved method of operation, failure to comply with regulations regarding occupancy levels and locked exits, and failure to supervise. During the suspension, the SLA will prosecute these violations, the maximum penalty for which is revocation of the license. The SLA has also opened an investigation into this business availing their license to an undisclosed person, following the licensees’ refusal to respond to books and records requests from the SLA, in addition to claims made by the manager.
“In just over a year in operation, and despite numerous complaints from residents and clear warnings from the police, there continues to be a growing pattern of violations at this location that threatens public safety and taxes police resources,” said SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley. “The SLA has an obligation to ensure this disruptive behavior does not continue, and this emergency suspension should serve as a message that this agency will not hesitate to take immediate action when a bar poses a threat to public safety.”
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 a prompt hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.