News came yesterday that the Elbo Room, that venerable dive bar on Delaware Avenue in Albany, lost their liquor license.
So what caused the Elbo Room’s liquor license to disappear faster than anything?
Well, here’s from the Governor’s press release.
So Elbo Room tried the “Cuomo Chips” defense, in that they tried to skirt the requirement that bars and taverns only serve alcohol with a meal, by counting potato chips as a meal. Trust me, potato chips as a meal didn’t fly when I was a freshman at college, and it doesn’t fly today.
Plus, Elbo Room offered no social distancing, masks weren’t enforced, and lots of other problems. Thus, their liquor license got suspended.
Granted, I’ve had a personal long relationship with the Elbo Room. It was one of my hangouts for team trivia games, and my Street Academy trivia team won two major championships there.
But with that, we need to talk about those championship prizes.
And therein lies a tale.
The second time we won at Elbo Room, we received $1,500 – $750 in cash and a $750 check. I had two teammates at the time, so I gave Jeremy $250 of the cash, along with the $750 check. He pulled out his phone, and snapped a picture of the check.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s a new thing with my bank,” he smiled. “You can take a picture of a check and it’s automatically deposited in your bank account.”
Yeah, stop laughing. We won the championship in 2012, like YOU had this technology back then.
So … a few days later, I received a phone call from Jeremy.
“Hey, Chuck, you’re not going to believe this, but…”
With Jeremy, I figured he was calling to see if I was interested in a game of Ultimate Frisbee.
“That check we received from Elbo Room?”
“It bounced. My bank hit me with a fee because the check had insufficient funds.”
Excuse me? Are you serious?
Then, when Jeremy tried to get in touch with the owner of Elbo Room, he ran into a slew of excuses. Something about the finances had to be transferred from one account to the other, etc., etc. He eventually went TO the bar … only to discover that, for some reason, it was closed. Something about a water leak in the basement, but it meant that Elbo Room was shuttered for about a week.
Eventually Elbo Room made good on the check and reimbursed Jeremy for the overdraft fees. (Editor’s note: According to Jeremy, he told me today that they NEVER refunded his overdraft fees. My bad.)
But this wasn’t the first time there was a problem with the final prize. During another Elbo Room trivia tournament, a team named Get That Poison Out claimed the championship. Great bunch of people, they deserved the win.
After the tournament, a few days later, the captain of Get That Poison Out contacted me through Facebook. “Hey, Chuck,” he asked me, “did you have any problems with the prize money from Elbo Room last year?”‘
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“Well, I deposited the check in the bank, and I just got word that the check is no good.”
It took a while, but eventually the Elbo Room made good on that check. But word had gotten around. Teams were skittish about playing in a 16-week trivia tournament and wondering if the final prize would be honored. And, one by one, teams left the Elbo Room for other trivia hangouts.
Honestly, I wasn’t going to tell this story. I figured I would keep my mouth shut about this. You know, give Elbo Room a bit of, shall we say, elbow room.
But we’re currently in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic. The rules about social distancing and masks and requirements – they’re all for everybody’s good. Not just for the patrons of Elbo Room, but for their families and friends and co-workers. This virus spreads faster than gossip, and we have to remain vigilant against the disease. And all it takes is someone doing something stupid, someone carrying COVID and passing it to someone else, who passes it to someone else… and so on … and so on …
Yeah, I know, the deal with the rubber checks was eight years ago. So what? People remember bad things about me from ten years ago, there’s no statue of limitations on my fuck-ups and getting called out for them.
But our strongest defense against COVID-19 is only as strong as its weakest link. So, yeah, you blew it, Elbo Room. Good luck convincing the State Liquor Authority to give you your liquor license back.
And for all the other bars who try to circumvent the requirements, who try to use the “Cuomo Chips” defense, who shout out “I will not comply!” on social media … guess what, if COVID-19 doesn’t shut you down, then you better hope the State Liquor Authority doesn’t do it as well.