James Dolan has never been one to avoid unnecessary confrontation during his tenure as owner of the NBA’s New York Knicks and NHL’s New York Rangers. His latest dispute is with New York state liquor authorities, and his latest salvo in that fight is pure Dolan in its bombast: He’s threatening to halt alcohol sales at an upcoming Rangers game.
James Dolan says he won’t sell alcohol at Rangers game in bizarre rant
At issue is Madison Square Garden’s use of facial recognition technology to ban attorneys who work for firms that have filed lawsuits against Dolan and his company from entering the arena. The practice has received widespread condemnation from civil-liberties watchdogs — plus the attention of New York State Attorney General Letitia James — and New York state legislators have introduced a bill that would ban the tactic at sporting events.
From the archives: In nearly two decades running the Knicks, James Dolan hasn’t learned a thing
But the only concrete action in the matter was taken by New York’s State Liquor Authority (SLA), which in November reminded MSG officials that they — under the terms of their liquor license and state law — cannot prohibit members of the general public from entering the arena.
Dolan responded, as only he can, on Thursday during a 17-minute interview on New York’s Fox affiliate.
“The SLA is way, way beyond their skis … they’re being extremely aggressive and they’re saying, ‘We’re going to take away your liquor license.’ So I have a little surprise for them,” Dolan said. “What we’re going to do, right, is we’re going to pick a night, maybe a Rangers game, and we’re going to shut down all the liquor and alcohol in the building.
“It’s like something out of ‘The Godfather.’ It’s like, ‘It’s only business.’ It’s not only business, and if you sue us, we’re going to tell you not to come,” Dolan continued. “If you’re grandstanding with the press, et cetera, I’m going to tell you: Go ahead, take away my liquor license. People are still going to come to the games.”
Dolan then went after Sharif Kabir, the SLA’s chief executive, saying he would post his photo along with his phone number and email address at the MSG areas where alcohol usually was sold.
“Instead, what we’re going to do is, where you can get liquor, we’re going to put one of these up,” Dolan said. “It says, if you would like to drink at a game, please call Sharif Kabir, Chief Executive Officer. … Tell him to stick to his knitting and what he’s supposed to be doing and stop grandstanding and trying to get press.”
In a statement Thursday, the SLA said it was investigating MSG over alleged violations related to its policy of banning Dolan’s legal opponents.
“All establishments licensed to traffic in alcoholic beverages by the State Liquor Authority are subject to and are expected to comply with the same laws and obligations, whether they are a small business or a multi-billion dollar corporation,” SLA spokesman Joshua D. Heller said.
Brad Hoylman-Sigal, a New York State senator who represents part of Manhattan, described Dolan’s interview as a “public meltdown” in a statement and called him “the poster child of privilege, as someone who inherited his wealth and receives an annual $43 million dollar tax break from New Yorkers.”
“New York shouldn’t allow petty tyrants to impose their warped fantasies on the public while reaping millions each year from taxpayer subsidies,” Hoylman-Sigal said. “I’m grateful to both the New York State Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney for launching inquiries into Dolan’s vindictive business practices intended to silence his critics.”