Traditions Pub in Jamaica Hills closed by SLA

By Madina Toure

Traditions Pub, a Jamaica Hills bar that elected officials and community leaders contend has frequently violated liquor laws and been the site of underage drinking, has been shut down by the state Liquor Authority.

The SLA held a special full board meeting June 9 where it ordered an emergency suspension of the license of the bar, at 84-28 164th St., which is a popular watering spot for St. John’s University students.

New Traditions Inc. has an alcoholic beverage license originally issued May 3, 2012 that is scheduled to expire April 30, 2018, according to an SLA document. There are also pending charges against New Traditions.

An SLA spokesman said the bar is entitled to an expedited hearing before an administrative law judge. In March, the NYPD closed the bar three times due to window obstructions, fire exit issues and overcrowding, and in the past year, the Health Department has shut it down twice, according to Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest).

Lancman also cited incidents such as an 18-year-old found unconscious in the bar, an individual treated at Queens Hospital Center for intoxication, people visiting family at the Margaret Tietz Nursing & Rehabilitation Center across the street being harassed by bar patrons and one being robbed by people hanging out in front of the bar.

The councilman said he does not expect the bar to reopen, given that there are 24 allegations against the owners.

“It seems very unlikely that they would win an appeal,” Lancman said. “Their conduct was quite egregious.”

Lancman and state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) each wrote separate letters to SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley and SLA Commissioner Kevin Kim in mid-April, asking them to revoke the bar’s license.

Weprin said the bar had a “tradition of problems” and that the SLA finally realized it.

“I think (the letters) led to the suspension eventually, but at that particular time, they did not take our advice of not renewing their license,” he said.

At a Community Board 8 liquor license committee meeting April 12 where members voted 13-0 against renewing the bar’s license along with one abstention, Michael Hannibal said the bar owner was supposed to work with the 107th Precinct and St. John’s University to ensure the safety of the students and customers and cited incidents such as public urination, choking, criminal mischief, marijuana smoking and sex abuse.

At the meeting, New Traditions’ Kirk Johnston, the bar’s co-owner and operator, said he thought too many issues were thrown at him at once and that he tried to work with St. John’s but that the school was not responsive, the meeting minutes said.

Johnston also said several NYPD undercover operations have come into the bar and tried to buy liquor, but all came back saying the bar did not sell to underage patrons.

But at the meeting, Carolann Foley, president of the precinct’s community council, said the bar had been caught selling to underage clients.

New Traditions’ attorney, Argilio Rodriguez, referred to the incidents as allegations.

Paul Lazauskas, St. Johns’ associate director for community relations, said the school met with Johnston and 107th Precinct’s Community Affairs around April 2014 and discussed building code violations, increasing lighting, having additional bouncers at the bar’s entrance and having ID scanners.

Lazauskas said there were promotional fliers for the bar going up on campus, which is prohibited, and that Johnston said he was not aware they were being posted.

The university sent out an email to students about an incident that took place in the vicinity of the school, which he said Johnston erroneously interpreted as saying that it occurred at his bar.

“He took offense to that and from that point forward that’s when the communication really just broke down,” Lazauskas said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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