The Mac’s Public House, a focal point for anti-blockade demonstrators in Staten Island, New York City, was reopened despite the closure restrictions imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York State Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Althought the closing of the bar was ordered by the city’s Department of Health on November 27, the bar opened at 8:00 p.m. on Friday night and closed at 10:00 p.m. local time.
Co-owner of the bar, Danny Presti, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with obstruction of government administration after continuing to operate the bar in violation of state regulations. The rules state that bars and restaurants in areas with a COVID 19 positivity rate of over 5 percent are only allowed to serve food outdoors. On December 3, Staten Island’s positivity rate was 8.06 percent, according to the city.
Presti and co-owner Keith McAlarney had continued to allow people to dine indoors, trying to circumvent the law by declaring the bar an “autonomous zone” and offering “free” food and drink with a “suggested donation” to cover the usual prices.
The State Liquor Authority said, however, that offering “free” food and drink did not allow the bar to circumvent the state laws necessary for its business to maintain its liquor license. The state revoked the bar’s license on November 27, and the city’s Department of Health ordered the bar to close.
On Wednesday evening, demonstrators gathered outside the bar to demonstrate against the bans. Among them were members of the “Proud Boys,” a self-proclaimed “male chauvinist” group with links to white racists. According to the New York Times, the Staten Island borough is more Republican than the other boroughs in the city, which may explain why some of its residents support the anti-blockade sentiment.
“We’re not getting the support we need, the funding, nothing from our local and state governments, from any government, for what we need, and we need our livelihoods back,” Presti told Spectrum News. “If they don’t give it to us, we will take it back at that point because we have no confidence in them to do what needs to be done.
Jack Sterne, a governor’s spokesman, told The Times: “Breaking the law and risking the lives of your neighbors during a global pandemic to make a political statement is simply not acceptable.
Mayor Mitch Schwartz, a spokesman for the mayor, told the publication: “COVID-19 does not respect autonomous zones, nor does the sheriff – there are consequences for endangering your neighbors during a pandemic.
Presti and McAlarney said that government closures are damaging businesses and that patrons should be able to decide for themselves if they want to dine in public.
Washington Newsday has asked Mac’s Public House for a comment.