MSG Entertainment files lawsuit against New York State Liquor Authority

Featured image credit: Seth Hoffman on Unsplash

MSG Entertainment, owner and operator of New York’s Madison Square Garden arena, has filed a lawsuit against the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA), which is accused of threatening to ban the consumption of alcohol at the company’s venues.

MSG Entertainment has demanded an injunction against the SLA in response to what MSG Entertainment claims is the SLA’s “irrational abuse of its authority in filing pretextual charges against MSG Entertainment in connection with its adverse attorney policy”.

The statement from MSG Entertainment said that SLA’s actions are among a “long and sordid history of similar abuses”.

The SLA has been investigating MSG Entertainment after the latter banned attorneys who are involved in litigation against the company from attending events at Madison Square Garden.

In January, MSG Entertainment doubled down on the controversial utilisation of facial recognition technology at the arena. The use of the technology was first questioned in October when attorney Larry Hutcher, a long-time season ticket holder of the New York Knicks, the NBA basketball team that plays at the Garden, was told that his seats had been revoked as his law firm was representing ticket resellers that were suing MSG.

Hutcher filed a lawsuit in response, while other lawyers came forward stating they had received the same treatment whilst attempting to attend events at the venue.

The matter escalated in January as New York Attorney General, Letitia James, sent a letter to MSG Entertainment requesting information from the company and its affiliates regarding the use of facial recognition technology to prohibit legitimate ticket-holders from entering their venues.

It was reported at the time that the SLA had sought to strip the arena’s alcohol licence due to the furore, with New York law stating that venues that sell alcohol must allow access to the general public. MSG Entertainment has now taken legal action against the authority.

James Dolan, executive chairman and chief executive at MSG Entertainment, said: “This gangster-like governmental organisation has finally run up against an entity that won’t cower in the face of their outrageous abuses.

“While others that have been subject to 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.”

MSG Entertainment’s statement added: “To bring charges against MSG Entertainment outside the scope of the SLA’s authority is outrageous. The SLA’s threats to revoke the liquor licences at all MSG Entertainment’s New York venues – The Garden, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre – is a direct assault on the millions of fans who attend events at these venues each year by threatening their ability to consume beer and wine at all MSG Entertainment events.”

MSG Entertainment states that the SLA’s mandate is “fostering and promoting temperance” in the consumption of alcoholic beverages, and has labelled the idea that MSG Entertainment’s policy regarding attorneys pursuing litigation against the company is within this mandate as “absurd”.