People across New York have postponed weddings, canceled bar mitzvahs and put off communions because the state declared gatherings of more than 50 people a public health hazard.
Despite those sacrifices and warnings, it didn't stop a crowd more than 200 people from gathering at a Long Island restaurant to raise money for a local lawmaker.
Scores of people filed into the beer garden of Plattduetsche Park in Franklin Square Tuesday night to attend the fundraiser for Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin. Pictures sent to Nassau County authorities show tables set up outside, with noted speakers that included Republican party leaders.
Many of the attendees posed for pictures, including Clavin himself. Some were seen without masks on. Temperatures were taken and travel questions were asked before attending the outdoor dinner, where masks were supposedly required and there was assigned seating.
County Executive Laura Curran said the fire marshal's office is investigating whether the event violated any laws. The restaurant has capacity to serve more than 1,000 customers, so 200 guests would technically be under the capacity limit. However, under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order, social events with more than 50 people are considered a public health violation.
"Right now our fire marshals are looking at it, I don't want to pre-judge...Obviously we are tasked with enforcement, if it goes to that level, it goes to that level," Curran said. "Our goal is always to keep residents safe."
Both the owner of the restaurant and Clavin did not respond directly to requests for comment, but the supervisor's team said in a statement, "The county executive's administration should stop playing politics with the COVID pandemic," while also adding that Curran's office "should be ashamed (of) itself for harassing small businesses."
Back in July, Clavin said Hempstead residents were unable to attend town meetings in person because it was against Cuomo's executive orders. Recently, town residents have once again been able to attend town meetings, but only 10 residents are allowed at a time in a room that can seat more than 200.
Congresswoman Kathleen Rice called the gathering a "incredibly irresponsible." She said that even though she is up for re-election next week, she has not held in-person events because of the pandemic. The congresswoman added that she can't imagine what Clavin's urgency for cash is — considering that he's not up for re-election until 2021.
"To see an elected official just blatantly flout the CDC and New York state guidelines for public gatherings, and that's what this was," said Rice.