By Jeremy Walsh
Joshua Toas, the authority's chief executive officer, answered questions for close to an hour. He made it clear that the decision-making power lies with the authority's members, but said community input is crucial to the process.”We see almost all the letters sent to us by your board,” Toas said, referring to himself and his deputies. “We couldn't do our job without the input we get from you. The things you tell us are a vital part of the decision-making process.”Liquor licenses are a hot issue in Community Board 3, which covers East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and parts of Corona. Many residents, especially in East Elmhurst and the section of Jackson Heights along Roosevelt Avenue, have expressed frustration at the number of bars in the area. Liquor license hearings at CB 3 meetings often get heated, especially about rules preventing establishments from having on-premises licenses within 200 feet of a school or church.Toas explained that the rule is absolute when it comes to hard liquor licenses, but does not apply to restaurant beer and wine licences.The information about the 200-foot rule humbled Herman Fernandez, owner of the bar-restaurant Noches de Rumba, whose on-premises alcohol license application the board recommended for rejection because the business is 93 feet from a church.”This is my first time with this,” he said. “I did not know the rules.”There probably will not be any caps on the number of licenses issued, Toas said. The SLA has the power to limit licenses, but has only done this twice in its history.CB 3 members also complained about shady operations.”Many operators get OP licenses, but their stated method of operation is a restaurant, when they're operating as a nightclub,” said District Manager Giovanna Reid.”Then they're violating the law,” Toas said. He said the SLA investigates reports of such violations, which can result in a $10,000 fine and possible license revocation, but the public hearing process can take up to nine months. “Taking someone's license is a very complicated and lengthy thing.”Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.