Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How Barclays Center got aggressive alcohol policy for hockey games past potential overseers; what happened to required Quality of Life committee?

Everybody missed how the Barclays Center got sneaky in 2012, getting a more aggressive--and profit-seeking--alcohol service policy for NHL hockey games than the nationwide norm, with no public discussion.

Now, after an altercation, the arena has dialed back. It now cuts off service after the second period of New York Islanders games rather than, as previously, only after the 8th minute--"no later than 12 minutes prior to the end"--of the 20-minute third period.

That's what it should have been in the first place, according to experts. (Also, that's the policy at Madison Square Garden for the New York Rangers and was the policy at the Nassau Coliseum.)

As IslesBlog notes, the altercation occurred during the second intermission. Others have noted that drinking is already an issue on LIRR trains before the game.

The initial plans

In 2012, when the Barclays Center applicants, Levy Premium Foodservice and Brooklyn Events Center, sought a liquor license, they told involved community boards that they'd cut off alcohol sales after the third quarter at Nets games, as per NBA policy, and an hour before the end of other events, except for NHL games.

Residents concerned about the policy raised other issues. The controversy involved the arena's effort to keep after-hours liquor service open until 2 am, which was not initially disclosed, and later dialed back by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to 1 am.

Update: I spoke with Gary Reilly, who then chaired the Community Board 6 Permits and Licenses Committee. He confirmed that hockey was not on anyone's radar.

At the SLA hearing, Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association noted the history of cutting corners and lack of community responsiveness. "This is the pattern with Atlantic Yards, and what we fear will be the pattern with the Barclays Center," he said.

Danae Oratowski of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council commented, "You have to plan for the worst-case scenario."

They were right, but no one noticed or questioned the policy regarding National Hockey League games. Arena operators disclosed it, but no one paid attention.


Hockey on the horizon?

In 2012, of course, hockey seemed no big deal: only a preseason game was publicly on the horizon.

But arena developers, by the summer, surely were already in talks with Islanders owner Charles Wang to move them to Brooklyn, which was formally announced in October 2012. After all, one summer change order involved "revised dasherboards," aiming to bring the rink to NHL standards.

So they knew. And while they said they'd adhere to NHL policies if more stringent, the league doesn't have a policy. However, there were--and are--recommended standards and norms.

Today, the TEAM Coalition (Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management), an alliance that includes the NHL, has recommended policies, approved by member organizations, including alcohol cutoff for NHL games after the second period.

The policies "represent the mode (most frequently reported value) for all sports venues representing TEAM Coalition member leagues," the coalition says.

As of 2012, the TEAM Coalition used slightly different language, reporting that a second-period cutoff "represent[s] the average of all sports venues participating in TEAM."

In other words, the Barclays Center policy was an outlier. We should've noticed, and they should've told us. But that's not how they roll.

License re-approved

In 2014, with no comment or controversy, Community Board 6 recommended re-approval of the arena liquor license, after being told all stipulations had been adhered to.

Perhaps when the license comes up for renewal in the summer of 2016 this issue will be addressed, and the second-period cutoff will be formalized. (License #1263192 expires 8/31/16.)

Update: Reilly, who now chairs CB 6, said, "All of the issues that were previously on the table are reasonable things to talk about at the next renewal."

What happened to Community Advisory Task Force?

As noted in the excerpt below, one mollifying promise made in 2012 by the license applicant was to create a "sub-committee on quality of life issues," as part of the existing Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet structure, which involved various governmental agencies.

Indeed, that District Service Cabinet, which met during business hours, upon arena opening morphed into a Quality of Life Committee, which met in the evening and treated residents as equal participants.


That didn't last. Last year, the Quality of Life Committee became a top-down Community Update meeting, aimed to dispense information about construction projects. See screenshot below.

It's sometimes called--rather confusingly--a Quality of Life Community Update meeting, but there's no longer anything resembling a committee or a task force.

An official from Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project, recently deemed it "a developer meeting." Maybe, but it doesn't look like they should get away with it. The liquor license requires more responsiveness.


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