By Priya Raman
After a four-year dry spell, Naples Pizzeria is in the process of applying for a new liquor license.
The restaurant — once a popular Thursday night hangout for students — lost its license in December 2001 because owner Anthony Prifitera did not pay a fine to the Connecticut Liquor Control Commission after several underage students were caught being served alcohol illegally, LCC officials said. Naples has asked the LCC, which regulates the sale of alcohol in Connecticut, to grant a new license to the restaurant, a Naples manager said.
Prifitera was unavailable for comment.
LCC director John Suchy, who said he was not familiar with the details of Naples’ application, said a liquor control agent will conduct thorough background checks of the owners.
“Once they’re done reviewing the application, they forward it to the Liquor Control Commission that then makes the final decision to grant a license,” he said.
The leaders of several underage drinking watchdog groups said they would support a new license only if Naples promised to incorporate new security measures intended to help enforce drinking laws.
John Daviau, project director for the Connecticut Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking, said that because Naples is located so close to the center of Yale’s campus, it is especially important for the owners to take more precautions when serving alcohol to students.
“They’re in a very high risk area with a lot of kids who are going to want alcohol underage,” he said. “It’s right across from a residential college. While I’m sure it’s a very good location to be selling pizza, along with all the business they must get goes the responsibility of making sure they’re doing whatever they can do abide by the law.”
Although he said he realizes that sometimes students possess fake identification that is virtually indistinguishable from real IDs, Daviau said the owners should train employees on how to better recognize a fake ID.
Esther Armmand, director of the Connecticut Office of Substance Abuse Policy and Prevention, said that while enforcing alcohol regulations might be unpopular among some Yalies, students should not adopt an attitude that underage drinking laws do not apply to them.
“[Students] are in the Connecticut community now,” she said. “I would hope that they would want to follow the laws that govern our community.”
While Yorkside Pizza owner George Koutromanis said he agreed with laws preventing underage students from drinking, he said the laws can be difficult to enforce. Even with strict requirements meant to ensure the validity of IDs, he said underage students find ways to consume alcohol.
“I turn my back for a moment and I see a 25-year-old passing over a beer to an 18-year-old,” he said. “What can I do?”
Koutromanis, who has a college-aged daughter, said he feels a parental obligation to his customers to make sure they are not breaking the law and staying out of trouble.
University Properties Director David Newton said a new liquor license for Naples would not necessarily spur increased economic activity on or around Wall Street. He said he thinks the area around Naples has fared well over the last several years, despite the restaurant’s lack of a liquor license. In the years since Naples lost its license, he said, several other restaurants have opened that provide competition.
“There are lots of other places for eating and getting something to drink now than just two years ago, so how many people would go over to Naples is hard to tell,” he said.
Still, some students expressed excitement at the prospect of Naples once again serving alcohol.
Joel Barnes ’06, who entered Yale one year after the restaurant stopped serving alcohol, said he would welcome being able to enjoy a beer with his pizza.
“[Freshmen] heard about all the things that would happen there from other students in Silliman, but we could never partake in them,” he said. “They have great pizza, and if I could get a drink with that, it would be fabulous.”
LCC officials said that if Naples is granted a new liquor license, they would not have to pay the fines incurred after the loss of their previous license.