Naples Pizza and Restaurant lost its liquor license for good last week after its owner failed to pay a $12,500 fine from the establishment’s most recent run-in with the Liquor Control Commission.
In October, the popular Wall Street hangout had its license suspended for 75 days after commission agents found the restaurant was illegally selling liquor to minors. In addition to the suspension, which began in January, Naples was hit with a fine which, if paid by Dec. 21, would have brought alcohol back to the pizzeria at the end of this month.
But owner Anthony Prifitera did not pay the fine on time. In fact, he did not pay at all.
“It is rare that we are faced with such a blatant disregard for a decision of the department and we cannot tolerate such actions by any liquor permittee,” Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Gary Koval said in a memorandum of decision dated Feb. 26.
Prifitera contacted the commission on Jan. 3 — nearly two weeks past the deadline — and requested to pay the fine in three installments. The commission denied Prifitera’s request and later revoked his liquor license permanently.
Although Prifitera said the authorities were just doing their job, his lawyer, Peter Ressler, said that the commission’s unwillingness to cooperate was unfair and that he plans to appeal the decision in state Superior Court later this week.
“Paying in installments was a reasonable request, and the commission acted unreasonably,” Ressler said. “We’re going to fight this.”
But in the meantime, Prifitera will have to figure out a way to turn the now-dry restaurant into an Eli favorite once again. And without alcohol, that might be a Herculean task.
“It’s clear that the party scene is not here since we lost the alcohol,” Prifitera said. “If they want to drink, kids will find somewhere else to do it, and they won’t come here.”
Emily Field ’05 said going to Naples during Bulldog Days was one of the reasons she chose Yale over other colleges.
“It was very special, and I feel like it is very ingrained in my Yale experience,” she said.
She added that its nonexistent carding policy let underage patrons drink in a “safe environment.”
But this “safe” environment was also illegal, and Naples’ immense popularity with Yale’s underage contingent did not free it from any of its obligations to the liquor commission, including the fine on which it recently defaulted.
“The commission takes a firm stance on the selling of alcohol to minors, and when someone blatantly doesn’t pay their fine, the commission takes a further stance,” said Maria Delaney, the director of the DCP’s Liquor Control Division. “Behavior like Mr. Prifitera’s forces us to take action.”
Prifitera is also taking action. He said he plans to make several improvements over the summer to return the pizzeria to prominence on the Yale social scene.
“I’ve got some ideas, and by September I think I’ll have things cooking again,” Prifitera said.