Coronavirus

NYC Republican Club Party-Goers Test Positive; Restaurant's Liquor License Suspended

A week after a video of a maskless conga line at a New York City restaurant surfaced on social media, at least one party attendee was hospitalized with COVID-19, according to a report, and the state's Liquor Authority announced it has suspended the restaurant's liquor license.

The Queens Daily Eagle reported that James Trent started feeling coronavirus symptoms two days after attending the Whitestone Republican Club party at Il Bacco, an Italian eatery in Queens, in early December. Several attendees were not wearing masks and there was little to no physical distancing, according to a video posted on social media last week which showed several people dancing in what Gov. Andrew Cuomo called "Covid conga line."

Trent told the Daily Eagle that he thought he was safe because he “wasn’t doing anything risky," ate by himself and wasn't on the conga line.

At least one other attendee, along with his wife, tested positive for the virus after the party, according to the Daily Eagle. It's unclear how many people were in attendance but more than 40 people can be seen dancing on the floor or sitting at a nearby table in the dining room.

After the video surfaced, the Whitestone Republican Club defended hosting a holiday party amid the pandemic, saying that it followed precautions.

"Yes, we held a holiday party. A good time was had by all. We abided by all precautions. But we are not the mask police, nor are we the social distancing police," the club said on Facebook. "Adults have the absolute right to make their own decisions, and clearly many chose to interact like normal humans and not paranoid zombies in hazmat suits. This is for some reason controversial to the people who believe it's their job to tell us all what to do."

At the time of the party, restaurants were permitted to open at 25 percent capacity but Cuomo placed a citywide indoor dining ban just days later due to upticks in coronavirus cases.

“Conga lines are not smart,” Cuomo said during a press conference last week. “Why you would do an unmasked Covid conga line in the middle of a Covid pandemic — whatever your political persuasion — defies logical explanation as far as I’m concerned.”

As the video garnered backlash, New York State Liquor Authority said it launched an investigation into the restaurant and found multiple violations including people dining inside an enclosed space, staff not wearing masks properly and other non-COVID safety violations.

"During a follow-up inspection, investigators found flagrant violations of indoor dining regulations and existing health safety and Alcoholic Beverage Control laws, while verifying the maskless party depicted in the video did in fact occur," the SLA said in a statement to NBC News. "This summary suspension should send a strong message that we have zero tolerance for establishments that put New Yorkers’ health at risk."

The restaurant faces up to $10,000 per violation and it may have its liquor license permanently revoked, pending decisions from the SLA Board.

NBC News is reaching out to the restaurant for comment.

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