The State Liquor Authority (SLA) gave a firm thumbs-down last week to an application by an Astoria businessman who planned to open a liquor store next to a veterans’ rehabilitation center. The state agency told Xiao Wang, who proposed opening Vernon Wine & Liquor, Inc. at 8-23 Astoria Boulevard, to find another location. Wang was planning to open the store next door to Reality House, a nonprofit outpatient rehabilitation facility that treats veterans with alcohol and substance abuse addictions.
“I don’t think this is the right location,” an SLA commissioner told Wang at the January 9 hearing. “Imagine you go for treatment and right next door there is a liquor store.” Members of the panel suggested that Wang find a location further away from Reality House and the Astoria Houses, a city Housing Authority project with more than 3,200 residents.
Wang argued that it took him almost a year to find the location after he was forced by new development in the area to shut down a store he previously operated on 27th Ave. in Astoria. He also said he chose the new location because it was near his former store. Wang owned and operated Baba Wine & Liquor at 3- 15 27th Ave. for several years until he ran afoul of the city in July 2017, authorities said. He was slapped with a $20,000 fine for selling liquor products that were purchased from an unlicensed vendor, and for his repeated refusal to let city inspectors into the store during normal business hours. Wang’s failure to comply with state and city requirements forced him to close the 27th Avenue store a short while later.
Assembly Member Catherine Nolan and Council Member Costa Constantinides sent strong messages to the SLA prior to the January 9 hearing demanding that the agency deny the liquor license. The two lawmakers shared their concern about the close proximity of the new store to Reality House and the Astoria Houses, one of the largest public housing developments on the east coast. Nolan also alerted the SLA that the operators of Reality House opposed the new liquor store.
“This is a victory for the community,” Constantinides said. “Everyone has a right to make a living, but this type of business is not one we need in proximity to public housing and a rehab center.”—Liz Goff