Inside Vito Lopez’s secret meeting with the state booze commish

Assemblyman Vito Lopez's campaign treasurer and girlfriend run a nonprofit that pays them handsomely.
The Brooklyn Paper / Aaron Greenhood

Barflies beware — Vito Lopez wants to calm your party down.

The powerful Williamsburg assemblyman and other community leaders held a private meeting last month with the State Liquor Authority and demanded that he regulate the “oversaturation and proliferation” of new bars and liquor-serving restaurants in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Lopez (D–Williamsburg) requested that Liquor Authority Commissioner Dennis Rosen review of all existing liquor licenses in his district and urged the agency to listen to Community Board 1 members’ complaints to curb bars in Williamsburg.

After the meeting in Lopez’s S. Fifth Street office, a liquor authority spokesman said that the state would consider stronger regulations, but maintained that an outright ban on new bars is a non-starter.

“We can’t do a moratorium because of a state statute,” said spokesman Bill Crowley. “What we have to do is look at each license individually, but saturation is something we can consider when making a decision.”

The liquor has been flowing freely in Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhoods for much of the decade.

And CB1 has typically rubber-stamped most new liquor applications and renewals.

In 2010, the board approved 138 new liquor licenses. In the first three months of 2011, it approved 54, well ahead of last year’s pace.

Perhaps that’s why board members pushed back this spring, with Chairman Chris Olechowski floating a moratorium on all new liquor licenses. The idea never gained traction, but board members began exploring other strategies, such as more rules to require bars to tamp down noise — and more rejections for new licenses within 500 feet of existing bars.

The police are reacting as well.

Officers have led several crackdowns in the past month, including two bars in Greenpoint and a Williamsburg rooftop film event.

Police even arrested the owner of Coco66 in Greenpoint for operating his bar with an expired liquor license. He was released 36 hours later, but Coco66 remains shuttered.

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