Mayor echos Cuomo and threatens to close bars and restaurants if overcrowding continues

Mayor Bill de Blasio (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday threatened to shut down bars and restaurants if New Yorkers continue to revel outside in large crowds violating social distancing regulations. 

Since early June, videos and photos of unmasked pandemic-fatigued drink-holding New Yorkers standing close together en masse on sidewalks and streets have been blasted across social media. But de Blasio’s warning was said in response to overcrowding that has taken place on Astoria’s Steinway Street for the past week.

“I just want to make this clear, when we agreed to allow this part of our life come back it was not meant to be business as usual,” de Blasio told reporters. “No one wants to shut down bars and restaurants but if they do not cooperate in our efforts to contain the coronavirus, they will be shut down.” 

The city began allowing outdoor dining on June 22 as a part of Phase 2 of reopening and it wasn’t until the New York City Sheriff’s Office issued a cease and desist order to Brik Astoria where partying took place all last week has a restaurant been suspended from the new outdoor dining program. Brik can no longer serve patrons outside until it can present the with a new plan on how to keep patrons socially distant, Gothamist reported. 

Restaurant and bar owners have complained about the programs changing and unclear rules. A neighboring restaurant of Brik Astoria, O’la Blanca, was issued a summons on Sunday night for placing tables and chairs beyond their storefront. Owners Najib B Mennani argues that had the tables and chairs outside for five days and was given no warning that he was in violation of outdoor dining regulations until he was issued his summons. 

In order to mitigate overcrowding, streets like Steinway will see ” heavier enforcement efforts” from the city’s 150 sheriff office officers, de Blasio said, and NYPD officers if need be. On Monday night, the Sheriff’s office plans to have 30 officers handing out face coverings and taking part in foot and car patrol on Steinway. 

De Blasio’s comments came minutes after Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened to roll back bars and restaurant openings if congregations continued. Monday marked the city’s entry into Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan which allows for most outdoor cultural venues like botanical gardens and zoos to open for outdoor activity at 33% capacity.