The owner of a Staten Island tavern was arrested by city sheriffs on Tuesday night after ignoring multiple orders to cease indoor service amid a growing wave of coronavirus cases in the borough.
The raid on Mac's Public House followed the owners' declaration of their establishment as an "Autonomous Zone," free from the state's orange zone restrictions, which prohibit indoor dining. Deputy sheriffs, who entered the bar undercover, said they observed 14 people drinking and eating at around 5:30 p.m. last night.
The officers handcuffed co-owner Danny Presti, 34, and issued a raft of fines to employees. In response, a crowd of about 50 people gathered to protest the shut down, chanting "hands off Mac's Public House."
"They're getting fucking raided by the goddamn gestapo," said Scott LoBaido, a pro-NYPD activist and self-described American Flag Artist. "This is disgusting!"
“The COVID is bullshit!” huffed another demonstrator, according to the Staten Island Advance.
State Senator Andrew Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island, was also on scene to protest the arrest.
"We respect law enforcement on Staten Island like no other place," Lanza told the sheriffs. "We also have questions as American citizens. You just took out one of our constituents, one of our neighbors, a business owner, in handcuffs. I asked why."
According to NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito, Presti was charged with obstructing governmental administration after refusing to leave the bar. He was issued a desk appearance ticket, and set free later that evening.
A bartender, cook, and attorney were also issued $1,000 fines and cited for violating city and state orders.
After the State Liquor Authority suspended the bar's liquor license last week, Preseti announced that customers would be offered free drinks and food for a suggested donation. The SLA later clarified that this did not constitute a "loophole."
“COVID-19 doesn’t respect autonomous zones, and neither does the sheriff," said mayoral spokesperson Mitch Schwartz. "There are consequences for endangering your neighbors in a pandemic."
In recent weeks, Staten Island has seen the highest number of cases per capita in New York City. Of those tested in the borough, 4.5% are infected with the virus, according to state data.