An outraged Madison Square Garden boss, James Dolan, fired back at the State Liquor Authority on Saturday for its threat to revoke the stadium’s liquor license in the latest escalation of their legal battle.
“This gangster-like government organization has finally stood up to an entity that will not shrink from its outrageous abuses,” said Dolan, CEO and CEO of MSG Entertainment in a statement.
“While others who have been subjected to this harassment may have been forced into submission or silence, we are taking a stand.”
The SLA threatened to revoke Madison Square Garden’s license to sell cocktails at the venue and at two other Dolan properties, Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre, due to the ban on lawyers involved in litigation against MSG.
The state agency had notified MSG of its plans to “suspend, cancel or revoke” the license of the “World’s Most Famous Arena” to serve liquor at its events, from the Knicks to the Rangers to their concerts. The notice came with a deadline of this coming Wednesday for a response.
But MSG instead sought an injunction on Saturday preventing the state from imposing any ban on the sale of alcohol on its premises.
“The licensee engaged in misconduct by barring a certain class of audience… to improperly prevent them from accessing the licensed facilities to view entertainment and sporting events,” the SLA wrote.
Dolan has come under fire for a policy that prevents hundreds of lawyers involved in litigation against the Garden from attending events at its properties, and MSG uses facial recognition technology to identify and bar lawyers.
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Among the outcasts on the court was attorney Larry Hutcher, a season-ticket holder for nearly five decades who taunted Dolan with a sign reading “a ban can’t stop this Knicks fan” while attending a Knicks game. the Knicks in Miami last weekend.
MSG maintains that the SLA is operating outside its remit and noted that the proposed ban on alcoholic beverages would directly affect the millions of fans who pack the Garden each year.
Garden’s attorney, Randy Mastro, in his own 47-page court filing, criticized the SLA letter as an abuse of power and denounced its “false charges brought in bad faith.” He went on to call the SLA a “state agency with a long and sordid history of abuse that is now on display here.”
“The SLA was originally established to prevent corruption in the alcoholic beverage distribution industry in this state,” he wrote in court documents. “Instead, it has been a cesspool of corruption and scandal for many decades.”
The state’s attorney general, Letitia James, in a two-page January letter, asked Dolan for “company policy justifications” for keeping certain fans out of buildings. She said the investigation suggested the company’s use of the software “may be fraught with bias and false positives” against people of color and women.
But Dolan, in a January appearance on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York,” defended the policy.
“If someone is suing you, that’s a confrontation,” he said. “If you’re being sued, you don’t have to welcome that person into your home.”