Since the COVID-19 crisis began, 162 businesses across the state have had their liquor licenses pulled. Businesses that are caught violating social distancing regulations face fines up to $10,000 per violation, while egregious violations can result in suspension of a liquor license.
“Too many bars and restaurants are still flouting rules in place to stop the spread and local governments need to step up,” Cuomo said in a statement. “So we’ve beefed up enforcement with the state police and liquor authority to hold bad actors accountable.
“Now is not the time to lose sight of our goal, and if compliance slips, all of the progress we’ve made over the last five moths could be undermined,” he added. “These establishments put the health of their staff, their patrons and all New Yorkers at risk.”
Of the 14 bars and restaurants that were recently penalized, seven were in Brooklyn, three were in Queens and one was in Manhattan.
The majority of the offenders were in Bushwick, including Mally’s Deli & Grocery, La Fogata Restaurant & Cafe, NY Pizza Cafe & Spanish Food Restaurant, El Salvador Restaurant De Marina and La Perla Del Ulua Restaurant.
Violations ranged from drinking indoors and employees seen without face coverings to alcoholic beverages being sold without food.
At La Perla Del Ulua Restaurant, investigators reported that an unauthorized DJ was playing music in front of the establishment, and at least 37 patrons were seen standing shoulder to shoulder, drinking and dancing.
Bars that violated protocols in Queens included Palm Court Restaurant & Lounge in Jamaica, Privileged Gentlemen’s Club in Sunnyside and Esquina Tequila in Long Island City.
According to the State Liquor Authority (SLA), suspension orders are served immediately and remain in effect indefinitely. Bars and restaurants are then entitled to an expedited hearing before an SLA administrative law judge.
“We are seeing better compliance as a direct result of the hard work and time the task force is putting in, but there are still bad apples out there that need to be held accountable,” SLA chairman Vincent Bradley said. “As we head into the last couple weekends of summer, licensees need to continue to be vigilant and put the health and safety of New Yorkers on the top of their priority lists.”
The state’s efforts to crack down on bars and restaurants violating COVID-19 rules has also engendered pushback from many state lawmakers.
Last Wednesday, 25 state senators, led by State Senator Jessica Ramos, penned a letter to the SLA calling the current guidelines “unclear and unfair.”
“Strict enforcement guidelines and high fines are destroying businesses’ chances to survive the economic catastrophe brought by the pandemic,” the letter reads. “We need safe, clear enforcement processes and guidelines with due process for businesses.”
The state legislators, representing all five boroughs, Long Island and parts of upstate New York, called for lowering the fines, creating a clear policy for restaurants to come into compliance and ending the “blatant harassment” of small businesses.
“We have heard of harassment tactics which include sirens and megaphones taunting owners with the threat of closure during working hours,” they wrote. “To empower businesses to reopen and employ the community, the current administration’s policies need to change and need to teach businesses before punishing them.”