Governor Cuomo Threatens to Keep NYC Bars and Restaurants Closed
Regardless of the economic and political implications of reopening after COVID-19 shutdowns, the health statistics are clear: Many areas are seeing an increase in the daily number of coronavirus cases. From the beginning, phased reopening policies have included the qualifier that a spike in case counts could mean a return of closures. Over the weekend, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened the New York City area with exactly that if residents continued to ignore social distancing rules—and he specifically called out bars and restaurants as a major part of the problem.
New York City restaurants and bars were finally seeing a path to reopening sit-down seating, with Mayor Bill de Blasio presenting a plan earlier this month that included a helpful boost for outdoor dining, but on Sunday, Governor Cuomo addressed these establishments directly as a major source of violations of social distancing and mask requirements. He then specifically honed in on Manhattan and the beach communities of the Hamptons on neighboring Long Island as areas that would need to do a better job of following the rules. Otherwise, Cuomo could prevent them from advancing to the next phase of the state’s reopening plan. New York City has likely been on pace to begin Phase Two—which includes outdoor dining—in early July.
“We have gotten 25,000 complaints to the state of businesses that are in violation of the reopening plan […] especially at bars and restaurants,” Cuomo stated. “This is a very serious situation, and I want to make sure everybody knows the consequences here: A bar or restaurant that is violating these rules can lose their liquor license.” Cuomo added that even he personally called “a couple of bars and restaurants” after seeing images of their violations, adding, “There is no excuse, ‘Well, I told people, and they did it, even though I told them.’ You are responsible for the people in your establishment.”
“I am warning today, in a nice way, consequences of your actions,” Cuomo said later. “Manhattan and the Hamptons are the leading areas in the state with violations. […] I am not going to allow situations to exist that we know have a high likelihood of causing an increase in the spread of the virus. And if we increase the spread of the virus in Manhattan because of bars and restaurants, well, then everybody in Manhattan is going to suffer.”
Cuomo implied that the biggest issue was people breaking two laws at once, one new and one old: disregarding social distancing and mask wearing rules, while also drinking in public with alcohol purchased for carryout. The governor’s press conference included a warning about violating the open container law; he also added, “I understand nobody wants to go to a sidewalk with people drinking and say, ‘You people can’t drink on the sidewalk.’”
More on the nose, earlier in the weekend, Cuomo tweeted, “Don’t make me come down there…,” in response to a video of large crowds drinking on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan on Friday night.