The nightlife of the East Village has been gradually drying up over the past few years. Speaking as your After Hours Editor, this depletion of nocturnal watering holes has rocked me to the core. Many have blamed Community Board 3, a group of E.Vill residents with nothing better to do on a Monday night than foil the plans of many a restaurateur. But as with so many things downtown, the real culprit might have been a little farther afield.
Though CB3 has been in the habit of denying liquor licenses like they were a Donna Hanover marriage, it is important to note their judgment is merely a recommendation to the State Liquor Authority in Albany. The SLA is an organization made up of members appointed by the governor who listen or ignore Community Boards.
The head of the CB3 SLA committee, Alexandra Militano, told us, "Now it isn't very often that the SLA goes against our judgment but in the past it used to happen a lot." That change was the governorship of former Republican George Pataki, who appointed conservative officers to the SLA. In 2006, Pataki even established the Rapid Enforcement Unit, whose duty it was to strip bars of their liquor licenses.
But now a new and cuter face is in office in Albany, Eliot Spitzer. As soon as he took office in January, the beer and wine started flowing again through the veins of the East Village. He hasn't made changes in the SLA yet but there seems to be the effect of new sheriff is in town. New liquor licenses have appeared, for bars both annoying and lame—but all with alcohol. There's the Box, Boucarou, EU finally, to name a few.
Of course, it seems that the closer applicants get to Ms. Militano's E. 5th Street apartment, the less they're likely to be granted a license—Death & Co, Mighty Ocelot, etc.—so don't expect the neighborhood to entirely become the pre-Katrina French Quarter.