Madison Square Garden, one of the most iconic venues in the world, is at the center of a legal and regulatory storm that could lead to the loss of its liquor license. This follows a ruling by the New York Supreme Court’s First Appellate Department, which upheld the State Liquor Authority’s (SLA) right to investigate the arena’s admission practices.
The conflict ignited over MSG owner James Dolan’s use of facial recognition technology to bar entry to lawyers from firms involved in lawsuits against MSG and related venues, such as Radio City Music Hall. This action, dubbed the “adverse attorney policy,” has raised questions about whether MSG’s policies are in violation of state beverage laws, which mandate that establishments must be open to the general public.
Dolan, known for his outspoken stance, has been critical of the SLA, describing it as a “gangster-like governmental organization” and vowing to fight back against what he perceives as abuses of power. In response to the appellate court’s decision, an MSG Entertainment spokesperson emphasized their intention to continue challenging the SLA’s actions, even if it means escalating the matter to federal courts.
The SLA, on its part, argues that Dolan’s policy effectively means MSG properties are no longer open to the public, which is a requirement for holding a liquor license. The agency has been accused by MSG of longstanding corruption and unfairly targeting businesses.
Adding to the drama, Dolan has publicly criticized SLA officials, including a notable incident where he displayed an image of SLA boss Sharif Kabir on television, accusing him of seeking publicity and grandstanding. Further escalating tensions, MSG admitted to hiring a private investigator to follow SLA investigator Charles Stravalle, a move that MSG claims is a common and lawful practice.
The court’s decision allows the state to complete its administrative hearing process. If the SLA finds that MSG has violated the terms of its liquor license, Dolan will have the opportunity to contest the decision. MSG maintains that its ban affects an extremely small percentage of lawyers and New Yorkers, indicating the policy’s limited impact.
The outcome of this dispute could have significant implications for MSG, particularly in terms of its ability to serve alcohol, a key component of the venue’s revenue and visitor experience.