Volume 74, Number 38 | Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2005

City says Village and Chelsea residents drink much

By Hemmy So

The City Health Department has made it official: Greenwich Village and Chelsea residents are Manhattan’s lushes.

The agency released a community survey on Friday that found 22 percent of Manhattanites to be “excessive drinkers.” Greenwich Village and Chelsea residents beat that percentage by 10 points, with 32 percent of them falling under that characterization.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene defines “excessive drinking” as more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and more than one per day for women — a definition that many dispute.

“That’s absurd,” said Billy Ryan, a bartender at Tavern on Jane at Eighth Ave. and Jane St. in Greenwich Village. Still incredulous of the Health Department’s definition, he asked, “What’s the time period? Two drinks in half an hour?”

“Doctors say that you have more than two drinks a day and you’re a raging alcoholic,” Billy Olland, a 24-year veteran bartender at Peter McManus Café at 19th St. and Seventh Ave. in Chelsea, said skeptically.

“And they outlive their doctors,” quipped his boss, cafe owner Jimmy McManus.

The report is based on telephone survey responses from 10,000 New York City residents aged 18 and over. Conducted in 2003, the community survey asked people in every neighborhood about their health and the health of their families. Verification of survey responses, however, is impossible.

“People lie,” Olland said. “If they’re drinking it out of the bottle, they don’t count it.”
The survey also found that the majority of excessive drinkers binge drink, consuming more than four drinks on any one occasion. Anecdotal evidence suggests that binge drinking may occur most often on weekends.

“Coming here on weekends, there are a lot of people here blowing off a lot of steam,” David Greisen said about his neighborhood watering hole, Kettle of Fish on Christopher St. near Sheridan Sq.

Ryan and McManus confirmed that weekends brought the most people into their establishments.

“Generally speaking, people here don’t get trashed,” said Patrick Daley, owner of Kettle of Fish, where he’s also a bartender. But Daley noted that the number of drinks a person can consume in one sitting depends on factors like body chemistry and the period of time over which a person drinks.

Although the city Health Department survey found almost a quarter of Manhattan residents to be excessive drinkers, almost half of all New Yorkers surveyed said they do not drink at all. In addition to breaking down its results by neighborhood, the survey also examined residents by age, race, gender, income and marital status.

Judging by these four factors, young, single, white males making more than $50,000 a year take the gold in excessive drinking. Yet the study also indicated that blacks and Hispanics, who percentage-wise have fewer excessive drinkers, are more often hospitalized for alcohol detoxification or die from alcohol-related causes.

After Greenwich Village and Chelsea, the Upper East Side and Gramercy Park have the most excessive drinkers in Manhattan with 25.6 percent of those surveyed. The Upper West Side follows closely behind at 23.5 percent, and Union Square and Lower Manhattan show 22.1 percent.

Although the East Village wasn’t listed in the survey, David McWater, chairperson of Community Board 3 and owner of several bars on Avenue A, said, “I heard we’re Number 2. I’m doing my part,” he added. “I had seven cocktails over the weekend.”

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