The law declares that any business on the same street and within 200 feet of a house of worship or a school cannot receive a full liquor license. Unfortunately for Harlem, the area has about 200 houses of worship, according to a list by the city’s Department of Finance, which looked at City Council District 9 and the mailing addresses of four neighborhood ZIP codes. The actual church, temple and mosque count could be even higher, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“It kind of seems like they have something on every corner,” Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s retail group, told the Wall Street Journal.
The law permits beer and wine licenses for businesses near churches or schools, but industry experts say that a lounge, club or restaurant needs to a full liquor license to earn a profit. The exceptions to the rule are establishments continuously licensed since before Dec. 5, 1933, when the law was passed, or those with licenses that pre-date the school or house of worship.
“I have been doing work in Harlem for 13 years, and it’s probably been the number-one issue in terms of constraints for restaurant development in Harlem,” Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, executive director of business alliance Harlem Park to Park, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s made it very difficult to build a real restaurant or night life corridor because it’s pretty much every block, whether it’s a megachurch… or a storefront church.”