Micah Kellner: Catering Hall Clown

Honoring his well-established and documented practice of being a hack, Assembly Member Micah Kellner took significant contributions from the lobbyists for a Park Avenue catering hall that fought, and won, an Albany-based battle for a liquor license exemption.

Third Church of Christ, Scientist at 583 Park Avenue has stood for 90 years as a Temple to Science and Health, according to the tenets propounded by Mary Baker Eddy.  Active membership having declined of late, in 2006 the Christian Scientists began renting out their church to the Roses, an entire family of event planners.  The Rose group struck a mutually lucrative bargain with the Christian Scientists, who would be allowed to continue using the church twice a week, in between bar mitzvahs, hedge fund holiday parties and fashion shows.

Anyone who has been on Park Avenue above 59th Street has surely noticed the area’s distinct lack of ground-level retail establishments, nightlife venues, bus stops, etc.  All of that is for a reason: the people who live in the buildings on Park Avenue like peace and quiet and have the resources to impose it.  So when 583 Park Avenue transformed itself from a nearly somnolent tomb into an event venue, the locals were perturbed.  Lines of white limousines, catering trucks, photographers, and crowds: none of this fit the standards of the neighborhood.

The church, now effectively a catering hall, applied for temporary permits to sell liquor at its events, but needed an actual retail liquor license in order to operate as a fully-functional event factory.  The Rose family ran into trouble when applying for a liquor license, as there is a legitimate house of worship, Central Presbyterian, less than 200 feet away, and state law forbids retail liquor sales in such close proximity to churches and schools.

Fortunately, some of the local elected officials were venal and open to the right kind of persuasion.  Micah Kellner and Dan Quart co-sponsored a bill specifically to carve out an exception in the state liquor law to give the church-cum-wedding factory the right to sell liquor all the time.  Lobbyists for the Rose Group contributed thousands of dollars to Kellner’s (and Quart’s) campaigns.  Over the last few campaign cycles Micah Kellner took in around $4,000 from lobbying firm Connelly, McLaughlin & Woloz, and from the principals of the firm, and from Brenda Levin and George Arzt, other Rose Group lobbyists.

As Senator Liz Krueger, who vigorously opposed the exemption, points out, the Kellner/Quart bill is essentially a private bill: it does not have any general applicability to other churches, but pertains only to 583 Park Avenue.  This point will surely irritate the Upper East Side bar owners whom Micah Kellner has targeted in his latest campaign against pub crawls.  Kellner, arguing from a bogus position of civic rectitude, has introduced legislation to strip liquor licenses from bars that participate in what are basically organized tours of bars that offer drink specials to revelers on special occasions.  The problem being, presumably, that it is hard to collect campaign funds from pub crawls.

As we have discussed many times on this website, Kellner is highly amenable to pay-to-play arrangements.  Taxi manufacturers, grocery store owners, offtrack betting machine operators, and now catering halls have found that Micah Kellner is happy to say whatever it is you need him to say, as long as you can meet his price.   As Mark Twain said about the tenets of Christian Science, “from end to end of the Christian Science literature not a single (material) thing in the world is conceded to be real, except the Dollar.”  Sounds like a theology for Micah Kellner.