ONLINE LIQUOR LICENSE MAP HAS INDUSTRY LEERY

Some fear database that also shows disciplinary action may hurt business

STEVE BARNES
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ALBANY -- The State Liquor Authority has launched a new mapping program that shows every current and pending liquor license in the state -- including restaurants, bars, liquor stores, beer sales and wholesalers -- as well as any disciplinary actions taken by the agency against the licensee. In the past, release of disciplinary records routinely required the filing of Freedom of Information requests.


The Liquor Authority Mapping Project, which went live late last week on the SLA website at http://lamp.sla.ny.gov, also shows the location of houses of worship, schools, police precincts and community boards. LAMP allows users to search in a variety of ways including by address, county, licensee name and business name. The LAMP database covers more than 54,000 map points, according to the agency.


State Sen. Daniel Squadron, a Democrat who represents parts of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn and worked on legislation to fund the project, said in a statement, "This website will make life a whole lot easier for communities and businesses. Everyone benefits from more transparency and efficiency."


Industry groups worry that the information on the site has the potential for misuse and could harm businesses. Rick Sampson, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, said, "The only part we have a problem with is the posting of the disciplinary information. Our question is whether the consumer will understand what it means."


Sampson used a hypothetical example of a restaurant or bar that is cited for allowing a fight and chooses to pay the fine rather than spend time and legal fees to contest it.


"All it will say is one of the infractions was (for allowing) fighting on the premises, when it could have been outside, could have been in a parking lot adjacent to the establishment and had nothing to do with what was going on inside. There's the potential for misunderstanding if it's not clear," Sampson said. LAMP lists disciplinary actions going back to 2003; it includes only settled matters, not investigations or disputed charges.


Sampson said the SLA has not addressed the association's concerns over the posting of disciplinary data.


SLA Chairman Dennis Rosen did not respond to a request for an interview.


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