Hempstead Mayor Targets Liquor Licensing
March 3, 2011 7:44 PM
By JAMES BERNSTEIN
It would be hard to go dry in the village of Hempstead, but that is not something village Mayor Wayne Hall considers a selling point.
Just the opposite. According to Hall, there are 167 businesses in the 3.7-square-mile municipality licensed to sell alcohol. That means, Hall said, there are 45.1 businesses selling booze, wine or beer per square mile in the village.
The number might rise to 54 or greater per square mile if more liquor permits are approved. Unless something is done, Hall said.
And Hall has been doing. Since last fall he has fought to halt new businesses - bars, liquor stores or bodegas - from receiving State Liquor Authority licenses. Hall has appeared before the SLA four times in the past few months, including earlier this week when he testified against a liquor license for an establishment on Fulton Avenue. The application was denied.
"I'm on a crusade to get rid of these" new applications, Hall said.
Hall last year noticed that "there seemed on every corner to be a place that sold alcohol," he said. "I decided to go to the SLA and find out what's going on here."
Hall found that the SLA was routinely granting liquor licenses because it was confusing the village of Hempstead with the much larger Hempstead Town.
"I told them 11550 is the ZIP code for the village of Hempstead," Hall said. "Anything outside of that is the Town of Hempstead." He also contended that some people seeking liquor licenses often lied to the SLA, denying that their establishment was within 500 feet of another liquor-selling business.
SLA spokesman Bill Crowley was unable to confirm Hall's assertion but said because of Hall's campaign the agency's board has approved a resolution - unprecedented - that any liquor application permit from Hempstead village must go before the full board for approval.
Village police have responded to more than 400 complaints last year involving bars and residents who live near them. Joseph Wing, chief of the 126-member village police force, said he began noticing a sizable number of establishments with liquor licenses about a year ago.
"I've got more than 150 of these places that I now have to go and check on at 2 or 3 in the morning," Wing said.
Leo Fernandez, village Chamber of Commerce vice president, said there are only a handful of liquor stores, but combined with all the bars and bodegas that sell wine "we do have a problem."