Does New York Have Too Many Bars? And Is There Anything the City Can Do About It?

Party time. Excellent? (Dennis Crowley/Flickr)

Even as the city has gotten squeaky clean over the past decade, in some ways, it is still as nasty as the Bowery at its worst. Case in point: Booze hounds. According to The Times, drinking-related problems are at modern highs.

In 2009, alcohol was responsible for more than 8,840 hospitalizations in New York, a 36 percent increase over 2000. Additionally, the proportion of alcohol-related emergency-room visits among New Yorkers ages 21 to 64 doubled from 2003 to 2009. There were 70,000 such visits just in 2009.

And it is not like 2000 was exactly a tame time in the city, with Silicon Alley booming and the Millenium New Years probably pouring more champagne than any time since the end of Prohibition. Then again, in the midst of a depression, what better things to do than kick back the bottle.

Yet the real issue may be, if this is a problem, is there anything the city can do about it? Or even wants to do about it?

The Bloomberg administration, for its part, is adamant that it is not seeking to reduce the number of bars in the city, a spokesman said. (“The answer is no.”) Responding to inquiries earlier this year about whether the city might discourage the opening of more bars, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s press secretary, Stu Loeser, said, “We’re deeply committed to encouraging entrepreneurs to start and expand small businesses in the city.”

In this instance an interventionist administration that recently called for residential buildings to regulate smoking seems oddly satisfied simply to play advertiser in chief.

But the fact of the matter is that even if the mayor thought he could do more to impinge on nightlife—maybe the smoking ban has helped more than it’s hurt, making bars more inviting to all—because the State Liquor Authority is the one responsible for regulating these establishments. See the dread Williamsburgers faced with the prospect of a new mega-club, as well as the relief when the SLA turned the down. But only until the club’s proprietor cleans up his place on the Lower East Side.

If the state cannot be counted on to properly fund the subways, what happens when it comes to the bar around the corner?

mchaban [at] | @MC_NYC Does New York Have Too Many Bars? And Is There Anything the City Can Do About It?