For the last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been shaking his fist at restaurants and bars that continue to break the state's COVID-19 guidelines, particularly after videos went viral last weekend showing people partying on Steinway Street in Astoria. Earlier this week, four businesses in the NYC area have had their liquor licenses suspended. And today, Cuomo announced that 37 violations were given out to businesses in the city this week, and six more bars and restaurants have had their liquor licenses suspended as a result.
During a press conference on Friday, Cuomo said that the State Liquor Authority, in conjunction with the State Police, went out Thursday night “primarily” on the Lower East Side, as well as Astoria and Long Island, to check on places and give out violations. “I’ve asked local governments repeatedly to step up and do the enforcement repeatedly,” Cuomo said. “They’re not enforcing it aggressively enough.”
In a press release, the governor's office adds that there have been nearly 1,100 compliance checks between July 21st and July 23rd, documenting violations at 84 establishments. Businesses found in violation of social distancing regulations face fines up to $10,000 per violation, while egregious violations can result in the immediate suspension of their liquor license.
These are the 10 places that were suspended in NYC this week:
- Aqua in the Bronx, where officers found "12 patrons consuming alcohol inside the premises" and "kitchen staff and servers were observed without facial coverings and patrons were illegally smoking hookah both inside and in front of the premises."
- Cipriani Downtown in Manhattan, where officials observed "17 patrons drinking and standing around tables with no chairs in front of the business, most without facial coverings."
- Guaro's Tapas Bar Lounge in Jackson Heights, where investigators saw "20 patrons congregating...without facial coverings or social distancing" after midnight, well past the 11 p.m. curfew for outside service. SLA investigators returned a few days later "to find over 25 patrons in a nightclub-like atmosphere, with music blaring and patrons not wearing facial coverings or practicing social distancing."
- Set L.E.S on Ludlow Street, where they found "eight patrons drinking directly in front of the restaurant and approximately 30 patrons congregating near the premises, all without facial coverings and not practicing social distancing."
- Kandela in Queens, which had numerous complaints about "loud music and dancing directly in front of the business." They were given a warning, then during two followup visits, "investigators observed a DJ playing music outside the premises, creating a nightclub-like atmosphere where patrons were clustered, in addition to a bouncer and waitstaff serving patrons without facial coverings."
- La Pollera Colorada II in Jackson Heights, which first was found noncompliant back on May 4th when officers found patrons drinking inside who refused to disperse. Then during one visit this week, they found "servers without facial coverings, in addition to patrons drinking and lingering in front of the business," and during another visit, "over 25 patrons congregating without facial coverings and without exercising social distancing."
- The other four bars/restaurants who have previously had licenses suspended are: Brik Bar and M.I.A. (Made In Astoria), both in Astoria; Maspeth Pizza House in Maspeth, Queens; and Secrets Gentleman's Club in Deer Park.
While Cuomo has threatened to shutdown the city's restaurants and bars if the situation wasn’t brought under control, Mayor Bill de Blasio was slightly more optimistic that businesses were complying with the new rules. “We’ve got to do better,” he said during his press conference on Friday, but added that the problem “is still not enough to say wide-scale shutdown of businesses, wide-scale fines.”
He said that there would be "a lot of enforcement" this weekend, especially in Astoria and on the Lower East Side, with the weather expected to be nice outside. “If people really ignore the warnings then of course some institutions sadly will be shutdown, fines we’ll use,” de Blasio said. “But I still think we’re striking a balance, and I still believe overwhelmingly compliance has been consistent in most of the city.”
Last week, 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. In recent days, Cuomo has 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 violations of Cuomo's COVID-19 restaurant restrictions, operating an unauthorized outdoor bar, and failure to supervise the area. Since the onset of COVID, SLA says that they have brought 443 charges against establishments for violating the governor's order and suspended 33 licenses for violations.
Also last week, Gothamist reported that there has been an increase in illicit, underground parties happening 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."