A catering hall that had been operating within a Queens coronavirus red zone is among seven new establishments in NYC that have temporarily lost their liquor licenses after allegedly breaking COVID-19 guidelines, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Da Mikelle, a catering hall on Queens Boulevard, was ordered closed after sheriffs deputies and officers from the State Liquor Authority found roughly 70 people inside the venue along with its annexed eatery, Troyka Restaurant. Officers found patrons eating, drinking, and dancing without masks or maintaining social distance, according to an announcement from Cuomo's office. Though its lights were off, the venue still attracted the attention of officers after they heard loud music coming from inside.
At the time of the bust on October 21st, the hall was located in a red zone, completely barring indoor dining, and only allowing take-out or delivery. The maps controlled and monitored by the state have since been updated, designating the area that covers the hall a yellow zone.
Within the orange zone -- which prohibits indoor dining -- investigators found 24 people eating and drinking inside the Wise Bar & Grill, according to the SLA. Violations were allegedly more egregious at 39 Fantastic Bar, where more than 100 people were found hanging out inside the basement that's intended to hold a maximum of 25 people. Investigators -- who were initially kept from going inside -- said they found patrons in ten karaoke rooms "singing, drinking and using controlled substances in plain view." Seven people were arrested for allegedly carrying ketamine on them, and a manager was issued a summons for operating a disorderly business. Both businesses were busted on October 16th.
Between October 14th and 21st, four other businesses have been shut down by the state for COVID-19 violations. They include:
Fat Buddha in Manhattan, where NYPD and state authorities say they "observed over twenty patrons standing, congregating and drinking directly in front of the business without facial coverings well past the 11 p.m. NYC curfew for outside dining." Investigators also spotted people leaving and entering the restaurant with open containers of alcohol.
Rochelle's in Manhattan, which investigators found to be allegedly operating "well past the midnight cut off for indoor service in New York City" and "no evidence of substantial food being served."
Tropical Fantasy Bar & Lounge in Queens, after NYPD officers allegedly found the lounge "using a tent set up on the sidewalk in front of the premises, which was blocking the pedestrian right of way in violation of New York City's Open Restaurants program." Despite numerous visits and warnings by the NYPD "the premises continued to utilize the illegal tent."
Alfie's Place in the Bronx, where "the SLA determined the establishment's liquor license had been illegally sold to a third party without approval." The licensee was "charged with 'availing' the license by allowing persons who are not approved by the SLA to own or operate the premises."
Da Mikelle is the 177th establishment in New York City to be busted by the SLA since March 20th after social distancing measures were instituted to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Of those 80, the SLA temporarily suspended liquor licenses for 36 establishments in Brooklyn, 70 in Queens, 45 in Manhattan, 22 in the Bronx, and 4 in Staten Island.
"Rules are only as good as enforcement, and as we have ramped up checks on bars and restaurants, compliance has increased, creating a safer environment for everyone," Cuomo said in a statement on Friday. "A small number of business owners still don't think the rules apply to them -- even in focus zones where the state has tracked increased spread -- and these suspensions should serve as a reminder that we will take action against those who callously put New Yorkers in harm's way. As we continue to fight clusters across the state, bar and restaurant owners should know that the State's task force will keep enforcing the law, and if they do not follow the rules they will lose their right to serve alcohol."