The Lease Versus the Liquor License

What happens when one guy holds a bar's lease and another its liquor license? You can find out at tonight's Community Board 2 business-committee meeting, when irate regulars from Milanos on Houston Street will protest a possible license transfer from longtime owner Denis Lynch to East Village bar magnate David McWaters, who owns the Library and Nice Guy Eddie's, among other establishments, and now has the lease for Milanos.

McWaters says that he signed a new lease for the property about twelve months ago and that Lynch's lease expired on November 15 — which Lynch, who thought he had a verbal deal for a renewal, concedes. But Lynch won't give up the bar's liquor license. "One is no good without the other," he says. "The license is no good to me without a lease. The lease is no good to McWaters without the license. I'm not agreeing to no transfer of the licensing."

McWaters insists that owning the bar is not as important to him as preserving Milanos, a dark, narrow dive serving since the 1880s. But his negotiations with Lynch to buy the bar have not been successful. "He called me a motherfucker twenty times and hung up the phone," McWaters says.

McWaters, who also chairs neighboring Community Board 3, said this afternoon that the transfer of the liquor license was no longer on tonight's agenda. "He must have read an old agenda. Denis doesn't pay attention to things." But a call to Community Board 2 at 3 p.m. found that Preserve Milanos Inc., McWaters's company, was still on the schedule. Expect the protestors, too. —Aileen Gallagher

Community Board 2 [Official site]
Best Dive Bars, 2004 [NYM]