Major NBA, NHL Arena Could Lose Liquor License After Gov't Brings Legal Action Against Owner - Report
Fans who need a beer to wash down the upcoming playoff performances of the New York Knicks, who last won an NBA title in 1973, or the New York Rangers, whose last Stanley Cup came in 1994 after a 54-year drought, might have a problem brewing.
After months of back-and-forth, the New York State Liquor Authority is moving to take away the liquor license from Madison Square Garden, according to a report from the New York Post. The state is also targeting Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theater.
All three New York City venues are owned by business magnate James Dolan.
The issue at hand is Dolan’s use of cameras and facial recognition software to help him keep lawyers suing his properties from attending events at them.
The state wanted a response by March 15. It got one in the form of a lawsuit filed Saturday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan that called the state’s action “an abuse of power.”
“This gangster-like governmental organization has finally run up against an entity that won’t cower in the face of their outrageous abuses,” Dolan said in an interview, per the Post.
“While others that have been subject to this harassment may have been forced into submission or silence, we are taking a stand on behalf of our fans and the many small businesses who have long been subject to the SLA’s corruption,” he said.
The filing by Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. claimed that “The SLA’s improper actions are an assault on not only MSG, but also all of its fans, who will be deprived of the full MSG experience if the SLA gets its way and strips MSG of its right to serve alcohol at its venues.”
The state’s position is that the ban on attorneys who have run afoul of Dolan means his properties are no longer open to the public, noting that the ban is not because of actions in the venues, but because they have sued Dolan’s businesses.
The lawsuit said the action is “selective enforcement.”
“Many bars and nightclubs regularly exclude patrons who do not meet certain dress codes, display a certain ‘vibe’ or ‘energy,’ act in a certain manner, arrive in a large group of a certain gender, or even have certain skin colors,” the lawsuit said.
According to The New York Times, some state legislators have filed a bill to close a legal loophole that might allow Dolan to exclude those he wishes to ban.
Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal said Dolan is a “poster child of privilege” whose businesses get $43 million annually in tax breaks.
“New York shouldn’t allow petty tyrants to impose their warped fantasies on the public while reaping millions each year from taxpayer subsidies,” he said.
In a January interview, Dolan said he might play hardball with State Liquor Authority CEO Sharif Kabir.
“The SLA [State Liquor Authority] is way, way beyond their skis…they’re being extremely aggressive and they’re saying ‘We’re going to take away your liquor license.’ So I have a little surprise for them,” he said then, according to WNBC-TV.
“What we’re gonna do, right, it we’re going to pick a night, maybe a Rangers game, and we’re gonna shut down all the liquor and alcohol in the building,” he said.
Fliers will be posted with Kabir’s contact information, he said, and fans will be encouraged to “tell [Kabir] to stick to his knitting and to do what he’s supposed to be doing. And stop grandstanding and trying to get press.”
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