What to Know
- The general manager of a Staten Island bar was arrested for the second time in a week for opening in violation of COVID rules
- Daniel Presti allegedly struck a sheriff's deputy with his car while fleeing arrest - and kept driving with the deputy clinging to the hood
- Presti's bar, Mac's Public House, became a flashpoint after declaring itself an "autonomous zone" that would not comply with closure orders
The general manager of a Staten Island bar that repeatedly defied public health orders to close is now under arrest for allegedly reopening again, and then striking a sheriff's deputy while fleeing in his car.
The NYC Sheriff's Office said deputies attempted to take Danny Presti, 34, into custody just after midnight Sunday after observing patrons entering Mac's Public House via an empty commercial space next door.
Upon identifying themselves, the Sheriff's Office said, Presti allegedly fled on foot, got into his car, drove into one of the deputies, and then continued driving with the injured deputy clinging to the hood.
Deputies were eventually able to stop the car and take Presti into custody; the injured deputy was taken to the hospital. By Sunday evening, Presti was arraigned on close to a dozen charges including assault, reckless driving and resisting arrest. He was released on his own recognizance.
Presti's lawyer did not immediately respond for comment to the Associated Press.
Presti, 34, was eventually stopped and apprehended, the sheriff said. Presti was arraigned Sunday afternoon in Staten Island’s 122nd Precinct on 10 charges including third-degree assault, reckless driving, menacing and resisting arrest. A phone message was left for Mark Fonte, an attorney for Presti.
Earlier in the evening, Presti exited the bar to speak with media: "There's still sadness inside because we have to get everybody open. I get phone calls from the other business owners and staff of these places and they're still trying to figure out how they're coming up with rent this month and how to get their kids Christmas gifts."
The bar documented part of night's events on Facebook, posting a short video around the time of Presti's arrest as well as a statement.
"After a hard days work the sheriffs hid like snakes in the grass and waited till Danny left to finally go home and get some rest!" Mac's Public House Facebook posted read, in part, Sunday morning.
"We will not back down! You have not scared us!! The world is watching and it's time for everyone to wake up!" the post continued.
The incident caps off a week in which the bar lost its liquor license, was issued orders to vacate as well as cease and desist, was fined thousands of dollars, and became the scene of protests against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's COVID-19 micro-cluster rules.
On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Grant City bar, one day after it was shut down after publicly declaring itself an "autonomous zone" and not adhering to New York's COVID-19 measures.
The crowd stopped traffic outside, demanding the bar be allowed to open for business. Sheriff's deputies stood outside the entrance of the bar, which was shut down after it insisted on continuing indoor food and drink service. But that didn't stop protesters from screaming in anger at not only the officers outside, but also Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for implementing the restrictions that prevented the bar from operating inside service. The bar is located in an orange zone, which bans all indoor dining.
Bar co-owner Keith McAlarney has kept his bar open the past two weeks that the orange zone has been in place on this section of Staten Island. He said he needed to stay open because it meant he'd be able to pay the bills and feed his family, but now is calling on other small businesses to join in his fight.
"It's time for all small businesses and every citizen, it's time to stand up and open up," McAlarney said earlier this week. "All small businesses stand up. The citizens are there, they want you open. We need to make a living."
On Tuesday night, the bar's general manager, Presti, was arrested for being open. The 34-year-old was uncooperative and charged with obstruction of governmental administration in addition to the charges stemming from unauthorized food and beverage service, the sheriff said.
"Every single thing we can do to keep people safe we have. Meanwhile, if we take a ride over to Lowe's and Home Depot now, there's 500 people walking around and touching everything," Presti said at the time. "Besides having hand sanitizer when you walk in, what's the safety procedure?"
Health officials say the difference is the mask — it can be worn in stores and other locations, but people can't be wearing one while eating and drinking. The protesters, some of whom were not sporting masks, say they want to take the risk.
Mac's had declared itself an "autonomous zone" — a nod to protesters who claimed control over a Seattle neighborhood in June — in which it was not abiding by the state's or city's rules concerning COVID shutdowns of indoor service. The bar was caught violating the orders after a sting in which plainclothes officers went inside and ordered food and beverages, the city sheriff’s office said.
New York City Sheriffs said deputies on Tuesday surveilled the bar after receiving complaints of indoor dining past the 10 p.m. curfew. Deputy sheriffs witnessed 14 people inside the bar, many of whom were eating and drinking alcoholic drinks, according to the sheriff's office. Plainclothes officers who were seated at a table ordered food and drinks "in exchange for a mandatory 'donation' of $40," authorities said.
Uniformed deputies went in then and issued tickets for state and city violations, Sheriff Joseph Fucito said in a release. The bar was again seen open Friday night as well, though no arrests were made.
But law enforcement observed similar behavior once again Saturday night -- patrons being escorted in through a vacant commercial space and then a back door, and being served food and drink in exchange for a "donation."
The bar's decision to continue their food and drink service inside resulted in a cease and desist order and a $1,000 fine each day. The bar's liquor license has also been suspended.
"If you're gonna let the big companies do it, you should have found a way to let small businesses be able to do it too," McAlarney said previously, adding that he's not against the mask mandate or physical distancing but the government needs to help out struggling business owners.
McAlarney called the support that they've received "overwhelming," and had a message for those who think the bar is being reckless by taking the stand.
"If you feel, and you've done your research, and you believe that this is something that could end up causing someone in your family to get sick — they choose to stay home," Mcalarney said. "I'm not trying to trivialize anyone who has to go through this. Believe me, I would not do that. I am a very sympathetic person, I would give the shirt off my back to help anybody. But in America, everybody has a choice on how it is they end up wanting to live their lives."