CB10 and restaurants want SLA fees reduced during pandemic

The Black Whale is one of the restaurants that signed onto a letter asking politicians for help with SLA fees.
Courtesy of Facebook

With the indoor dining ban back and the need to pay the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) fees, many bars and restaurants that serve liquor may be forced to close.

The fees, which can be up to $5,000, is normally not a lot of money for a successful business, but during the pandemic is a burden.

Seeing the dilemma these places are facing, Community Board 10 along with restaurant owners, Calliope Rigos, The Black Whale, 279 City Island Ave., Bill Tsibidis, Crosstown Diner, 2880 Bruckner Blvd., Henry Martes, Caridad, 1436 Williamsbridge Rd. and Kenny Banker, Alfie’s Place Bar, 3037 Cross Bronx Expy, penned a letter on Nov. 30 to Senators Jamaal Bailey, Alessandra Biaggi and Luis Sepulveda and Assemblyman Michael Benedetto asking them to propose legislation that would require the NYSLA to implement a reduction in the alcohol license filing fee and establish a rebate program for liquor license applications filed since March.

“When the pandemic struck our community in March 2020, the first calls to our office were from small businesses such as our food and drinking establishments willing to provide a meal or two to first responders and needy families,” the letter states.  “These same restaurants require all our collective help not just this year but for the foreseeable future as COVID-19 measures remain in place.”

Biaggi told the Bronx Times her office received the letter and is reviewing the proposals. She feels New York has not done enough to help the restaurant industry during the pandemic.

In the summer, she also sent a letter to SLA raising concerns about the disproportionate enforcement of COVID protocols and lack of due process

“I remain committed to working with my colleagues to provide the support and relief that restaurants and their workers need to operate safely, while adhering to necessary COVID restrictions,” Biaggi stated. “At a time when so many small businesses are struggling, the SLA should be working with our restaurants to provide clear guidelines and due process for violations, instead of targeting and harassing them.”

Rigos, 58, who has operated the City Island eatery for six years, said the Black Whale has been struggling during the past nine months. While it has been open since 1961 and is well known, she noted even famous places like the 21 Club are shuttering.

The fact that people can go to New Jersey, Connecticut and Westchester County and eat inside does not make sense, she explained.

Rigos paid her SLA renewal fee in November, but said many other places may not have the funds to do so.

“You just close everybody and not give assistance,” she remarked. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

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