Popular bar raises drinking age to 23


A favorite watering hole of Manhattan College students, Riverdale City Grill, has agreed to raise its minimum drinking age to 23 in a bid to preserve its liquor license amid noise complaints, but police have no means of enforcing the rule.  

Community Board 8 voted unanimously on Sept. 14 to approve the drinking-age increase, which board chairman Daniel Padernacht said the bar had volunteered to introduce.

River City, as the bar is known in popular lingo, had previously agreed to close two hours earlier, at 2 a.m., as noise complaints have been pouring in and police warned in August the bar could lose its license when it came up for renewal. 

Many of the bar’s customers are young students, mostly from nearby Manhattan College. The increase of the minimum drinking age to 23, if upheld, would cut off most of Riverdale City Grill’s young clientele from access to the bar’s booze. 

“That’s the whole idea,” the head of the public safety committee of Community Board 8, Joseph O’Brien, told The Press after the board’s Sept. 14 meeting. 

The drinking-age increase would be the bar’s own regulation, similar to dress codes at other establishments, and police cannot force the bar to comply in a state where the minimum drinking age stands at 21. 

“It’s an unenforceable law. It has to be a compliance by the bar,” police Deputy Inspector Terence O’Toole, the commanding officer of the 50th precinct, told The Press on Sept. 15. 

The drinking age increase “is their policy. You know, you go to a restaurant and it says ‘no shirt, no shoes [no service]. That’s a health law, but, you know, some places will say: ‘no jeans.’ That’s a policy. And we can’t enforce it,” he said. 

No fights or other major disturbances have been reported at the bar, according to police. But noise complaints have been plentiful. 

Riverdale City Grill is a “busier location” than most other bars and clubs in the area, and police have received a spate of noise complaints from residents of nearby buildings, Capt. O’Toole said. A fair amount of underage drinking has been going on at the bar, and police have been issuing summonses to imbibers under 21, said the police commander, who had called for denying the bar its license when it came up for renewal. 

The license comes up for renewal next in two years, he said.