What to Know
- The entire state of New York is now in Phase IV, the final step of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reopening; New York City has taken a modified approach to the last two phases as it relates to indoor activities
- Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have opted to proceed cautiously on the reopening in NYC; the governor has recently threatened to roll it back if compliance and enforcement don't improve
- COVID cases continue to rise in at least 40 states; 31 of them are now on the tri-state quarantine-restricted list
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has voiced concern about young people congregating in bars, said Tuesday that the state's liquor authority suspended the licenses of four bars and restaurants in Queens and Suffolk County.
“That is a very serious situation, that means they can’t operate,” Cuomo said. “I’m sorry it’s come to this. But it’s a dangerous situation.”
The four establishments — Astoria's Brik Bar and M.I.A. Lounge, Maspeth Pizza House, and Secrets Gentlemen's Club in Deer Park — all had repeat violations against them, some of which were more extreme than simply serving beers to a few too many people standing around.
The wildest offender was Secrets Gentlemen's Club, where an undercover inspection revealed patrons and employees inside were not wearing face coverings. That included the dancers, who were performing close together, using the same poles and giving lap dances — all of which went against the governor's executive order and health guidelines. The owner claimed that the actions must have taken place after he left, despite already being caught on video buying drinks for the undercover agents and bragging about getting away with the violations.
Maspeth Pizza House had violations for serving alcohol to patrons who had gathered outside, and investigators observed servers not wearing facial coverings. Other patrons were seen smoking hookah, a violation of the business' license. On two occasions, the unlawful service continued after the 11 p.m. curfew, as customers were hanging out, drinking and dancing.
Both Brik Bar and M.I.A. were cited for serving alcohol to large crowds who were not eating, sometimes after the executive order's mandated curfew for establishments. Brik Bar was said to be one of the worst offenders along Steinway Street, where large crowds had regularly been gathering for drinking and partying. The suspension comes just one day after the bar's outdoor dining privileges had been revoked, only being allowed to open for takeout on Tuesday.
The owners of Brik Bar and M.I.A. declined to speak with NBC New York, but earlier in the week, Brik Bar's owner said the crackdown had gone too far, and that the state was "making an example out of us."
Late Tuesday, there was a large police presence outside the M.I.A. bar, as one witness said the sheriff's office was seen searching the premises and a car outside, and said one person appeared to have been put into custody.
Another Steinway Street bar, Fusion Lounge, was to have its license suspended as well for similar reasons. It turned out that joint was already operating under an expired liquor license. The state won't allow it to be renewed.
Since March, the state has suspended 27 licenses and brought 410 charges against establishments, who must follow social distancing and face-covering rules on top of Cuomo’s requirement — announced last Thursday — to only serve alcohol to people who order and eat food.
He has said the state will close restaurants and bars once they hit three violations, while a single egregious violation can also result in immediate closure.
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
Cuomo’s senior adviser Richard Azzopardi said the state has reined in the rules because of reports of individuals standing outside restaurants and bars and engaging in “mask-less, non-socially distanced outdoor drinking.”
“That clearly wasn’t the intent and is why the rules had to be tightened,” he said.
Slipping compliance locally only compounds the COVID threat from out-of-state travel, Cuomo says. Cases continue to rise in 40 states. More than half of America is now on the tri-state quarantine-restricted list. Travelers to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from those hotspot states must isolate for 14 days.
One of those hotspot states, California, surpassed New York for total number of coronavirus cases. The Golden State had 415,763 confirmed cases as of Wedensday, according to NBC News, while New York — which for months had been the state hardest hit by the virus — had 415,094 cases. New York still had more deaths than any other state by far, with more than 25,000 fatalities, according to the state's count.