SThis is Joshua David Stein. I'm back briefly not to discuss Project Runway, which I haven't watched and which Richard and MisterHippity have done quite well already, (consensus: it sucks!) but to discuss the case of Cipriani. It's a topic of abiding interest for me. I wrote a large article on Cipriani for Page Six magazine a couple of weeks ago in which I predicted that empire's demise. Two days ago, however, Jeanique Green, the newest member of the State Liquor Authority which is responsible for deciding who shall and shall not serve liquor in New York State voted to accept a settlement on behalf of Cipriani of $500,000 rather than revoking the liquor licenses of its New York locations. Basically, Cipriani got into the weeds by failing to list Arrigo Cipriani, a felon, on their liquor licenses. Though Cipriani gets to live another day, I argue, Ms. Green's deciding vote may be the pollice verso for a legal and vibrant New York nightlife. Sure, you can call me out for having sour grapes. It would have been nice if my piece was as prophetic as the Follieri one before it. I had been operating on the premise that the SLA would follow the rule of law, one of the cornerstones of democracy. It is, after all, a premise upon which good governance rests. The equal and impartial application of laws, a government of laws and not of men is crucial to our democracy. As Montesqueieueie writes, "Law should be like death, which spares no one." Sadly, after heartfelt pleas from the Post's Steve Cuozzo (with whom I work and whose work I generally admire), who claimed closing would "cost more than 1,000 jobs, leave our most iconic celebration spaces empty for the foreseeable future, and knock the fizz out of the city's culture of excess - the golden goose that keeps the talent-fleeing, jobs-hemorrhaging "Empire State" afloat." Substantively what he's saying is, "Well, even though Cipriani broke the law—laws which we, as a community, have voted on as necessary to safeguard public welfare—it would be too disruptive to actually enforce the laws." This is dangerous since it is the same logic that allows sitting heads of state who happen to be war criminals to escape prosecution, the same logic that allows powerful corporations to continue to burgle the public, that keep the rich and powerful and corrupt all of the above. It's disappointing Cuozz would make these bogus and dangerous claims. But it's shocking that Jeanique Green would act on them. As Chris Shott reports in the Observer, Green explained her shit decision by saying she was concerned with "the impact of our decision on the individuals who are working there." This is myopic and wrong. By letting Cipriani escape unscathed and by seriously undermining the SLA, Green is sending a signal to other restaurateurs of substantial size that they too are above the law. Instead of worrying about Cipriani employees—something the Ciprianis don't do themselves—she should have been concerned at the precedent she's setting. She put a Band Aid on a cut and simultaneously shot herself—and her city—in the foot. What does she care? I'm sure Ms. Green is enjoying some complimentary bellini on the house.
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