State investigation may put DJ’s on the Hill at risk of closing

State investigation may put DJ’s on the Hill at risk of closing

After receiving complaints about failing to comply with state laws, DJ’s on the Boulevard had their license suspended immediately on Thursday, and DJ’s on the Hill could meet the same fate.
Published: November 18, 2019
DJ's on the HIll sign on Marshall Street
DJ's on the Hill is still fully operational and has yet to face any penalties.

Syracuse staple DJ’s on the Hill is under scrutiny after the liquor license of its affiliate location on Erie Boulevard was suspended by the New York State Liquor Authority on Thursday.

During an undercover investigation of DJ’s on the Boulevard, nearly half of the bar’s 150 patrons were minors, according to an SLA press release.

The SLA, in partnership with the Syracuse Police and the state Department of Motor Vehicles, sent undercover agents into the establishment where they witnessed underage patrons and minors consuming alcohol, said SLA spokesperson William Crowley.

DJ’s on the Boulevard, located at 3010 Erie Boulevard, was charged with 53 violations, which included sales to minors, improper bookkeeping, and failure to supervise.

The SLA is also seeking to revoke the license of DJ’s on the Hill, which is proximal to Syracuse University’s campus on Marshall Street. After receiving complaints that people were denied entrance if they didn’t show their student ID, the SLA investigated. DJ’s on the Hill was subsequently charged with operating illegally because they required student IDs upon entrance, which is illegal, said Crowley, because every bar should be open to the general public.

Neither DJ’s on the Boulevard or DJ’s on the Hill – owned by Dean P Whittles Incorporated – could be reached for comment on Monday.

DJ’s on the Hill has a track record of violations with the liquor agency. Crowley said. In 2016, there were a number of sales to minors, and SLA fined the bar $25,000 the next year. In an attempt to curb the sale of alcohol to minors, the SLA also mandated that they no longer allow entry to minors and required the bar to purchase ID scanners and be certified by the Alcohol Training and Awareness Program.

Syracuse Police Sgt. Matthew Malinowski said that when checking establishments like DJ’s, officers check everyone’s identification and cross-list them with the Department of Motor Vehicles that can verify if a license is authentic or fake.

Anyone in possession of a fake ID can be charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the second degree, which is a Class D Felony, or Criminal Impersonation, which is a Class A Misdemeanor, according to Article 170 in the New York Penal Law. People found guilty could have their license revoked for a certain period of time, depending on the case, Crowley said.

“If there are a ton of complaints about underage drinking, we conduct details like this,” Malinowski said.

These complaints can come in a variety of ways, he added, including via 911 calls, social media messages or anonymous tips. In the case of both Syracuse-based bars, SLA received a number of complaints regarding various infractions, Crowley said.

These investigations came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement last year to crack down on the use of fake identification in New York State.

In a press release issued by the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, it states that there were 851 compliance checks in May 2019 in 46 counties. Of those, 186 licensees were charged with Selling to a Minor. At the time, the only institutions charged with breaking the law in Onondaga County were Casa De ‘Cuse and Orange Crate Brewing Company, while DJ’s on the Hill was included on a list of the 655 businesses who complied with the laws.

Licensees can be fined up to $10,000 per violation and face potential suspension of their liquor license, the press release states.

DJ’s on the Boulevard is not open for business and cannot serve alcohol until their hearing. DJ’s on the Hill is still fully operational and has yet to face any penalties. Both bars have until Dec. 11 to respond to the charges from the SLA and have the right to a hearing. But there is the potential for the bar to be shut down for good, Crowley said.

The bar is a staple of the SU community, said SU senior and management major Samantha Walters, adding that it’s a “shame” that the bar may potentially close.

“It was a great place to meet people that you wouldn’t usually hang out with or people you didn’t live with,” Walters said. “It was just such a fun social experience at the end of a busy school week.”

Crowley said the board will look at the history of DJ’s on the Hill at the hearing as well as consider the current charges against the bar. But with a prior history of violating SLA laws, the bar faces the maximum penalty, which is the revocation of their license.