On a call with reporters on Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that four establishments in the New York City region have had their liquor licenses suspended so far due to violations of the state's COVID-19 guidelines. That includes a lounge in Astoria where large crowds have been seen gathering outside, as well as a strip club on Long Island.
The four bars in question are: Brik Bar and M.I.A. (Made In Astoria), both in Astoria; Maspeth Pizza in Maspeth, Queens; and Secrets Gentlemen's Club in Deer Park. "This is now a significant problem, and local governments have not been doing the enforcement," he said. "I have been asking them for weeks to step up and do their job."
"They were never supposed to institute outdoor drinking," Cuomo said of the offending bars. "They exploited the existing regulation." He argued that having bars open, without people sitting to eat, leads to people socializing in close contact, adding that, "It's younger people in bars. That is the issue."
Brik Bar, a.k.a. Brik Astoria, was told by the city to stop serving to customers outside after it became a central location for gatherings on Steinway Street, which has become known in recent weeks as "the party street of Queens." The lounge was ordered to come up with a plan with the city on how it plans to properly oversee outdoor seating, but the bar was open for takeout and still had a handful of outdoor tables on the sidewalk Sunday afternoon.
Bartender Kim Cortez told Gothamist the establishment shouldn't be blamed for the partying on Steinway Street. "We can't physically control people who are just standing on the sidewalk," Cortez said.
When Gothamist called Brik Astoria to ask about today's announcement, an employee hung up on us. Calls placed to M.I.A. were not answered.
As for Secrets, Gov. Cuomo spokesperson Jack Sterne told a Newsday reporter that investigators observed employees, dancers and the club's patrons not wearing face coverings. "The female performers were seen sharing the same pole and giving non-socially distanced lap dances – in violation of state guidelines," tweeted Robert Brodsky. "When the club’s owner was confronted with the allegations, he claimed the behavior started without his knowledge and consent, Sterne said." Here's the cherry on top:
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.
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 410 charges against establishments for violating the governor's order and suspended 27 licenses for violations.
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."