New York's Liquor Authority has posted an online map of about 55,000 licensed bars, restaurants and stores selling alcohol statewide, including their disciplinary history and pending license applications.
The interactive map shows where the establishments fit within police precinct boundaries, their distances from each other, and whether schools and churches are nearby. It doesn't list pending complaints for violations like selling alcohol to minors until cases are concluded.
The information is updated nightly, authority spokesman William Crowley said. The agency plans to review the data to complete listings, including nearly 2,800 initially rejected by its geographic information system.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron, a Manhattan Democrat who pushed for $369,000 to fund the project in 2009, said it brings needed transparency to licensing. "It's leaps and bounds forward from where the State Liquor Authority was," he said.
The map offers background useful to new businesses that need to know where other licensees are located, as well as churches and schools, to ensure they comply with distance restrictions, Squadron said.
Community boards in New York City wanted better access to Liquor Authority information, partly to know how many bars are located within 500 feet of each other, said Susan Stetzer, district manager for Manhattan Community Board 3 on the Lower East Side. When three or more full licensees are located within 500 feet, state law requires a hearing before adding another, and community opposition can block applicants or insist on stipulations like early closing times, she said.
"Before we had an oversaturation of bars, we had very beloved neighborhood bars that served our community," said Stetzer, noting that only Austin, Texas, now has a greater density of them. She said her neighborhood has become "a destination area" for outsiders on pub crawls, and the problem comes from people "yelling, singing, screaming and fighting" along the way.
"Businesses that are not as responsible are held more accountable," Stetzer said.
Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association, said the current Liquor Authority website is more helpful and easier to navigate, though he said it's incomplete and users should check whether information is accurate, particularly distance measurements.
"It's probably a lot more useful to the person seeking to apply for a license versus a person already in the business," Wexler said. Applicants can see where other businesses are located, and whether any have strings of violations that might affect them.
The map won't help track pending cases or revoked licenses. For example, the authority in February suspended the license of D&D Strombolli Shop Inc., which was doing business as Geppetto's in Schenectady. It accused the bar of 36 violations, including serving alcohol to underage drinkers, having unlicensed bouncers, paying employees off the books and failing to supervise the premises.
The bar owner denied the charges, and a hearing is planned, Crowley said. For now, Geppetto's does not appear on the authority's map at all.