Governor Andrew Cuomo's crackdown on restaurants and bars violating state COVID-19 safety protocols continues unabated this week: 12 more restaurants and bars, all located in Queens, have had their liquor licenses suspended after this weekend.
“I want establishments to know that we will continue to diligently enforce the law. That’s what this is—it’s enforcing the law,” Cuomo told reporters during a press conference Monday. "The state effort is supplementing the local effort. So we are seeing greater compliance by the local governments outside of New York City. So that’s why we are focusing on New York City because we can only supplement."
Over the weekend, the task force, made up of the State Police and State Liquor Authority, conducted over 1,300 compliance checks, documenting violations at 132 establishments. An additional 644 compliance checks were completed Monday night, with investigators observing 26 violations in NYC, which the Governor noted at his morning briefing were all in Queens and Manhattan.
As of today, the SLA has suspended the liquor license of 45 establishments since the start of the pandemic in March (two of those were rescinded with no charges, a third was given a stay by court order). Twenty-one of the last 22 places suspended have all been in NYC.
Here are the alleged details on the 12 establishments suspended as of this weekend:
- Lima (Jackson Heights): Following numerous complaints and other charges, the SLA allegedly observed over 20 people outside the premises drinking in a "nightclub-on-the-street atmosphere, ignoring social distancing guidelines and blocking the sidewalk." A week earlier, investigators also documented that the bar was allegedly operating past the 11 p.m. curfew for outdoor service also with patrons "in a nightclub-like-atmosphere, without facial coverings or adherence to social distancing guidelines."
- CJ's Bar and Lounge (Ozone Park): Investigators found five people allegedly drinking inside the bar this weekend, plus outdoor tables not properly spaced and "a party-like atmosphere that extended in front of a neighboring building." On previous visits, they allegedly observed employees without facial coverings serving patrons, as well as 30 people "partying and congregating directly in front of the premises, without facial coverings or social distancing."
- RubiRosa (Jackson Heights): During a follow-up visit this weekend, investigators allegedly observed 25 people standing in front of the location "consuming beverages, ignoring social distancing protocols, and not wearing facial coverings." They say they also saw an employee without a face covering speaking to patrons who weren't wearing face coverings.
- Mr Pancho's Café (Jackson Heights): Investigators allegedly found that the restaurant was open well past the 11 p.m. curfew on Saturday, with over 30 people standing in front drinking and "no food available, no proper facial coverings, and no social distancing. In addition, at least three employees were observed without facial coverings."
- Blue Angel Lounge (Corona) Investigators allegedly observed people consuming alcohol with no food present, and evidence that the kitchen had not been serving food at all, "evidenced by a rusty grill, deep fryers with no oil, an empty refrigerator, an empty food serving station, the gas to appliances turned off, and no kitchen staff on site." During an earlier visit, they say they found 25 people drinking inside as well.
- De La Mora Restaurant (Jackson Heights): Investigators allegedly found people were "standing, drinking and congregating directly in front of the premises, without facial coverings or observing social distancing." They returned that same day around midnight and allegedly found 30 people were still drinking and partying. De La Mora was previously charged by the SLA on for violations of the Executive Order on July 13th and 14th.
- El Patio Bar (Jackson Heights): On Saturday, investigators allegedly found people inside the bar drinking and addition to bartenders and kitchen staff without facial coverings. They claim they had previously found the bar operating well past the 11 p.m curfew for outdoor service, and also described a "nightclub-like-atmosphere without facial coverings or social distancing."
- The Grand (Astoria): The SLA and Sheriff's Office found the bar was allegedly operating past curfew with at least a dozen people inside without any facial coverings or social distancing. They add, "When the inspection detail arrived, a bouncer was observed encouraging patrons to leave the premises with open containers."
- El Paisa Café (Jackson Heights): Investigators observed 11 people allegedly "standing, drinking and congregating directly in front of the premises, without facial coverings or social distancing." They returned later that night and found they were allegedly serving 25 patrons after the curfew, none of whom were wearing facial coverings.
- Romanticos (Jackson Heights): Investigators allegedly found 13 people drinking alcohol inside the bar, and a manager and bouncer without facial coverings. They claim they had visited twice before and found other violations.
- Delicia's Mexicanas (Corona): An SLA investigator allegedly found people inside the premises, "with the manager blocking the path of the investigator while a waitress warned patrons to leave out the back door." Delicia's also had been caught operating after 11 p.m. on at least two other occasions this month.
- The Pomeroy (Astoria): An investigator allegedly observed a group of over 15 people congregating in front of this bar, as well as employees not wearing facial coverings, tables improperly spaced, and the restaurant serving drinks to go without food.
In addition to those places, here's the list of other establishments hit with violations in NYC on Monday:
- Lenny's Clam Bar & Italian Restaurant (Howard Beach)
- Sahara Cafe & Lounge (Inwood)
- Gourmet 45 (Midtown East)
- El Palo Bar & Restaurant (Corona)
- Set-Les (East Village)
- Numero 28 (East Village)
- The District Bar (East Harlem)
- Cafe Fiorello (Lincoln Square)
- Angaar Classic Indian Cuisine (UWS)
- The Writing Room (Yorkville)
- Redemption Sports Lounge (Midtown East)
- Adyar Ananda Bhavan (Midtown East)
- Ben's Crab (Uniondale)
- Kabu Bar Lounge (Jackson Heights)
- Angeletto (Midtown East)
- Coppola's East (Kips Bay)
- Taproom No.307 (Gramercy)
- The Shadmoor (Midtown East)
- Vago (Murray Hill)
- Suzu Sushi (Sutton Place)
- Jaiya (Kips Bay)
Last week, 10 establishments had their liquor licenses suspended in the state, including a strip club on Long Island—you can see a list of all of them here.
This month, Cuomo issued a new rule saying bars and restaurants could be shuttered if they violate social distancing protocols three times. The governor's office also reiterated that to-go drinks are only permitted if food is purchased, spurring one upstate bar to sell $1 "Cuomo chips" to comply. He has since further clarified that rule to say that establishments can't sell booze without substantial food.
The SLA previously suspended the liquor license of White Horse Tavern in the West Village after repeated alleged violations of Cuomo's COVID-19 restaurant restrictions, operating an unauthorized outdoor bar, and failure to supervise the area.
Altogether, the SLA says that they have brought 503 charges against establishments for violating the governor's order. Businesses found in violation of COVID-19 regulations face fines up to $10,000 per violation, while egregious violations can result in the immediate suspension of a bar or restaurant's liquor license. The suspensions go into effect immediately and indefinitely, pending an expedited hearing before a SLA Administrative Law Judge.
Earlier this month, Gothamist reported that there has been an increase in illicit, underground parties happening—often at restaurants and bars—every weekend around the city in which there is no mask-wearing or social distancing. "When you're in a club, you're not really thinking about what's going on outside, which I think is the goal," one veteran DJ put it. "We all want to pretend this isn't happening, but just because we're not looking at it doesn't mean it's not happening."