The co-owner and general manager of a bar in Staten Island was led out of his business in handcuffs Tuesday night for failing to comply with state and city orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mac’s Public House on Lincoln Avenue — which had declared itself an “autonomous zone” free from state mandates — tried to get around a ban on indoor dining as well as a 10 p.m. curfew by offering free food and drinks with a suggested donation, reported Spectrum News.
The Instagram account associated with the bar posted video of co-owner Danny Presti being cuffed and escorted out of his own business by sheriff’s deputies.
The attorney representing Mac’s Public House told WABC-TV the charges against Presti include disorderly conduct and civil fines. The city in which the bar is located, Grant City, is considered a coronavirus hot spot.
“I can assure everybody there wasn’t a person in the place that was disorderly, disrespectful, or not courteous,” said lawyer Louis Gelormino.
Leticia Remauro, a candidate for Staten Island borough president, defended the bar owner, saying, “This man was arrested for trying to earn a living and trying to pay his taxes — that is insanity.”
“This is disgusting,” added another local activist supportive of the small business owner. “This is selective enforcement. This is unconstitutional.”
Dozens of people began protesting outside the bar following Presti’s arrest.
One demonstrator, Scott Lobaido, told Spectrum: “You don’t selective enforce. You have all of these big box businesses that are wide open, making billions of dollars, and these people, if they don’t survive, they’re going to go to ugly extremes, and that’s what’s going to happen, it’s going to be worse than the virus itself.”
In addition to arresting Presti, deputies ticketed employees for violating city and state dictates. The law enforcement intervention came after the city Buildings Department ordered the business to vacate earlier in the day Tuesday.
Mac’s Public House co-owner Keith McAlarney, who was not arrested, said before Thanksgiving he planned to defy city and state mandates.
When asked what would happen if police or health department officials came in to shut down his bar, McAlarney said at the time, “[I] guess we’re going to end up finding out.”
“At this point,” he said before Thanksgiving, “we will be respectful to any worker that comes in here, as they will be respectful to us. But we will not recognize any agency coming in here to tell us how to run our business. We will be doing business as usual.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has banned indoor dining. Only take-out and outdoor dining is allowed. The temperature in Staten Island is hovering around 45 degrees during the day.
Protesters indicated they plan to return Wednesday evening.