EXCLUSIVE – A New York private investigator hired by Madison Square Garden could lose its license to operate as tensions rise over the State Liquor Authority (SLA) working to strip the venue of its ability to sell alcohol. according to Fox News Digital.
James Dolan, the New York billionaire and CEO of Madison Square Garden Sports and Madison Square Garden Entertainment, has been feuding with the SLA for months over MSG’s use of facial recognition software to bar certain guests and patrons. Among those banned from major New York venues, which also include Radio City and the Beacon Theater, are lawyers who are in active litigation against Dolan or MSG.
Dolan and his team claim these banned lawyers are working with the state agency in order to get the liquor license.
The SLA hit Dolan and his estates with administrative charges for barring attorneys, threatening the ability of Knicks and Rangers fans to buy beer and other alcoholic beverages at games. Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp filed a petition in Manhattan Supreme Court on Saturday, asking a judge to stop the SLA and charging that the liquor authority is a “gangster-like government organization,” the New York Post reported this weekend.
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“This gangster-like government organization has finally been pitted against an entity that will not hide in the face of their outrageous abuses,” Dolan told the New York Post. “While others who have suffered this harassment may have been forced into submission or silence, we are taking a stand on behalf of our fans and the many small businesses who have long been subject to the SLA’s corruption.”
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Within hours of Dolan’s filing in Manhattan Supreme Court, a private investigator working for MSG was threatened with losing his license to work as a PI unless he disclosed details of his clients to the state, according to Fox News Digital.
MSG co-counsel Jim Walden of Walden Macht & Haran told Fox News Digital on Sunday that “even after our lawsuit was filed, the SLA redoubled its abusive actions, apparently intimidated by the judicial review of the malicious campaign of vs. MSG.”
“He weaponized another government agency — the New York State Department — to go after MSG’s private investigator, forcing him to produce confidential client records without notifying MSG,” Walden alleged. “It is these kinds of abuses that the administrative state so often uses to put its heavy boot on the necks of tax-paying citizens and corporations. Others feel discouraged and have to put up with it. MSG will not do that.”
The New York State Department oversees the licensing of private investigators in the state.
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“The conflicts of interest and abuse of power at the heart of this case are on full display with these latest actions, using state power to target perfectly legal and standard practices,” said a person with knowledge of the case and recent developments. Fox News Digital on Sunday.
Under a New York law passed by a Democratic Assembly, private investigators can be hired to help support civil complaint lawsuits.
The SLA also has an investigator on its team, former NYPD officer Charles Stravalle, who, according to Dolan’s report Saturday, launched a “harassment campaign against MSG.”
“Stravale spent nearly half the time asking questions that had no possible bearing on the purported purpose of the SLA investigation,” the filing said, referring to a recent interview Stravale had with Dolan. “Instead, he asked questions based on speculative media reports or shared his own views on Space Policy. He was combative and competitive throughout the interview.”
The filing further claimed that when Stravale was with the NYPD, “questions were raised about the crime statistics reported in the area where he was the commander.”
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Dolan and the SLA have been at loggerheads since at least last year over the banning of certain lawyers. The issue became a hot topic in December and into the new year when a lawyer accompanying her daughter’s Girl Scout troop was banned from Radio City based on the venue’s facial recognition technology, according to the New York Post.
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The SLA argues that MSG’s “policy” of barring certain attorneys means that Dolan’s properties are not “open to the public” and therefore violates the SLA’s rule about establishments serving alcohol being open to “the general public ».
MSG hit back at the SLA’s policy neutrality in its report on Saturday, arguing that the state agency is practicing “selective enforcement.”
As Dolan and the SLA battle, New Yorkers say a possible liquor ban at MSG and Dolan’s other properties would likely keep them away from the events.
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“I would be 100 percent less likely to go,” Mike Tubbs, 27, a finance professional who lives in Manhattan, told the New York Post. “If they take away their liquor license, they’re going to target regular people, why would they do that? So in response to Madison Square Garden banning some lawyers, the city is taking away their liquor license? It’s out of balance.”
Fox News Digital reached out to SLA for comment, but did not immediately hear back.