They flouted the law, and the law won.
Three Queens businesses lost their liquor licenses Tuesday at the order of Governor Andrew Cuomo for welcoming throngs of partygoers over the weekend in spite of COVID-19 crowd restrictions.
Two of the three affected businesses are in Astoria: Brik Bar at 32-16 Steinway St. and M.I.A. at 27-35 21st St. The neighborhood was one of several New York City hotspots for street parties held during the weekend of July 17-19.
A fourth business on Long Island, the Secrets Gentlemen’s Club in Deer Park, also had its liquor license pulled for similar issues.
Both Astoria clubs, and Maspeth Pizza House at 55-60 60th St. in Maspeth, had their liquor licenses indefinitely suspended by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) on July 21. Each business, Cuomo said, had taken advantage of outdoor dining rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, serving alcohol to large numbers of congregants gathered there.
“I’m sorry it’s come to this but it’s a dangerous situation and I’ve said it many many times,” the governor said during a Tuesday conference call with the press. “The bad operators will make it worse for themselves and for the good operators. I’ve spoken to many operators who are doing the right thing and playing by the rules. It’s unfortunate the good get penalized for the actions of the bad.”
amNewYork Metro reached out to the SLA for further information about the suspensions; we are awaiting a response.
According to City Councilman Costa Constantinides, MIA had racked up 81 calls to 311 about disorderly conduct dating back to July 2019. More recently, in June, shots were reportedly fired outside the location along with other “violent incidents.”
“I take no joy in this, as many bars and restaurants have struggled over the last four months and deserve to make a livelihood while keeping everyone safe. Bad actors have to be held accountable, however, which is I asked the SLA last week to revoke MIA’s liquor license,” Constantinides said. “My office received call after call about their unsafe actions. We cannot have people flaunt the laws, endanger the public, and risk ruining the reopening for those who have followed the rules. I’m glad to see the Governor heard our call and acted to root out those who don’t want to be a community partner.”
When reached for comment, an employee for Brik bar and lounge hung up the phone immediately. MIA’s contact went straight to voicemail; we are awaiting a response to an email inquiry. Additionally, a Maspeth Pizza employee, who responded to our phone call, said someone would reply later.
Cuomo said there seemed to be a “disconnect” among a number of bar owners in New York who believed the expansion of outdoor dining for restaurants gave them the ability to set up a similar operation at their shuttered taverns.
New York State liquor licenses cover bars and restaurants equally; other states have separate liquor licenses and related conditions for these establishments. But Cuomo said that the easing of outdoor dining rules was not an authorization of bars reopening for customers and permitting drinking outside.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, bars were allowed to continue selling alcoholic beverages to patrons who could pick them up outside the establishment. However, the bars are not allowed to let the patrons drink there or on the street; the patrons had to bring their orders home for consumption.
“We said outdoor dining was allowed, and we facilitated that to restaurants,” Cuomo said. “We didn’t authorize outside drinking. The bars took this outdoor dining as an opportunity to do outdoor drinking, but that’s not what the regulations intended, and this is now a significant problem.”
Bars remain off-limits to customers as the state continues to deal with the pandemic. Of the 66,000 COVID-19 tests conducted in New York on July 20, Cuomo reported that the positive rate came back at about 1.2%.
Moreover, just two people statewide died of COVID-19 on Monday — the smallest total since the first reported virus death was reported back on March 14.
Cuomo, however, reminded that the threat of a COVID-19 resurgence remains in place due to the growing number of infections nationwide. He added ten more states Tuesday to New York’s quarantine list in which travelers from those states must quarantine for two weeks. Now, 41 of 49 states are on New York’s list.
“If the other parts of this country don’t get the infection rate under control, it will come back here,” Cuomo said. “That will happen. We’ve learned that lesson. It’s not a maybe.”
With additional reporting by Angélica Acevedo.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article, based on information that the Governor’s office provided, misidentified the Maspeth location that had its liquor license suspended. We regret the error, and any confusion which may have resulted.