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An outraged Madison Square Garden boss James Dolan fired back Saturday at the State Liquor Authority over its threat to slam-dunk the arena’s liquor license in the latest escalation of their legal battle.
“This gangsterlike governmental organization has finally run up against an entity that won’t cower in the face of their outrageous abuses,” said a statement from Dolan, the executive chairman and CEO of MSG Entertainment.
“While others that have been subject to this harassment may have been forced into submission or silence, we are taking a stand.”
The State Liquor Authority threatened to revoke Madison Square Garden’s license to sell cocktails at the venue and two other Dolan properties — Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theater — over its barring of lawyers involved in litigation against MSG.
The state agency had notified MSG of its plans to “suspend, cancel or revoke” the license for the “World’s Most Famous Arena” to serve liquor at its events, from the Knicks to the Rangers to concerts. The notice came with deadline of this coming Wednesday for a response.
But MSG instead filed Saturday for a court injunction blocking the state from imposing any ban on alcohol sales in its venues.
“The licensee engaged in improper conduct by banning a certain class of the public ... to improperly prevent them [from] ... accessing the licensed premises to see shows and sporting events,” the State Liquor Authority wrote.
Dolan has come under fire for the policy blocking hundreds of lawyers involved in litigation against the Garden from attending events on its properties, with MSG using facial recognition technology to identify and bar the attorneys.
Among the courtside pariahs was lawyer Larry Hutcher, a season ticket holder for nearly five decades who taunted Dolan with a sign declaring “a ban can’t stop this Knick fan” while attending a Knicks game in Miami last weekend.
MSG maintains the State Liquor Authority is operating outside its powers and noted the proposed liquor ban would directly affect the millions of fans who fill the Garden each year.
Garden attorney Randy Mastro, in his own 47-page court filing, blasted the State Liquor Authority letter as an abuse of power and denounced its “bogus charges brought in bad faith.” He went on to rip the authority as a “state agency with a long and sordid history of abuse now on full display here.”
“The SLA was originally established to prevent corruption in the liquor distribution industry in this state,” he wrote in court papers. “Instead, it has been a cesspool of corruption and scandal over many decades.”
State Attorney General Letitia James, in a two-page January letter, asked Dolan for “justifications for the company’s policies” in keeping certain fans out of the venues. She said research suggested the company’s use of the software “may be plagued with biases 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 confrontational,” he said. “If you’re being sued, you don’t have to welcome that person into your home.”