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Business & Developmentby Fern Shen10:16 amDec 13, 20130

A classic case of a “zombie liquor license”?

The Martick’s license has expired three times, only to be revived by the Liquor Board

Above: Martick’s Restaurant Francais, closed in August 2008,. (Mark Reutter)

For Martick’s restaurant fans, the city Liquor Board’s recent transfer of its liquor license to a dilapidated-looking Harlem Park building may have been another funky footnote on the saga of the long-shuttered one-time speakeasy.

But for community groups and their advocates pushing for better regulation of city bars, a more nitty-gritty aspect of the case was of interest – the fact that the 214 West Mulberry Street license has expired three times and been revived in violation of state law, according to the Community Law Center.

The handling of the license for the legendary French eatery “really highlights the historic dysfunction of the Liquor Board,” CLC attorney/blogger Becky Lundberg Witt told The Brew.

Article 2B section 10-504(d)(2) states that “180 days after the holder of any license issued under the provision of this article has closed the business or ceased active alcoholic beverages business operations. . . the license shall expire.”

Since Martick’s closed by its own admission in August 2008, it has had its license improperly revived by the actions of the Liquor Board three times, according to Witt, writing in the Community Law Center’s Booze News blog.

(Witt reviewed the record and documented the multiple hardship extensions and other actions resulting in what she calls “The Three Deaths and Three Resurrections of the Liquor License at 214 West Mulberry St.”)

Making Allowances

Asked about the Martick’s case in particular, Liquor Board Chairman Stephan W. Fogleman declined yesterday to get into the specifics “of a particular case from a month ago on the level of counting the days,” but discussed the general issue of “hardship extensions” which, he contends, the board can issue at their discretion.

“We always try to work with people, especially in this economy, as long as they are attempting to move the license,” Fogleman said in a phone conversation with The Brew.

Communities grappling with problem bars have long complained about the liquor board allowing transfers to take place months and even years after the 180-day deadline – it’s an issue highlighted in the scathing state legislative audit released in March.

Fogleman said the board is awaiting an opinion on the matter that it sought from the state Attorney General’s Office on August 30.

Witt points out that an AG’s office opinion – that came out two months before the Liquor Board made its “identical” request – supports the Law Center’s contention that the board “has no authority to give hardship extensions past the 180 days.”

Shouldn’t that suffice?

No, Fogleman said. “The board has, a while ago, requested its own interpretation of the law. . . We’re waiting for that to come back.”

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