The state cracked down on three NYC bars within the zoned shutdown areas in Brooklyn and Queens — where indoor dining was prohibited at the time — two of which appeared to be closed, but were actually hosting parties indoors. The state has temporarily stripped the liquor licenses of all three establishments, as part of a wider statewide crackdown in the month of October that saw 21 establishments temporarily lose their liquor license privileges due to a variety infractions in relation to the current COVID-19 safety protocols.
On October 16, NYPD officers observed customers entering Sunset Park karaoke bar 39 Fantastic — at 3914 Eighth Avenue, between 39th and 40th streets and located in a state-designated orange zone at the time — even though the establishment’s curtains were drawn and it appeared closed. NYPD officers then pushed past a security guard at the entrance, according to state records, and observed more than 100 people singing and dancing in various karaoke rooms in the basement, even though the basement was not licensed to operate as a bar.
A few days later on October 21, deputies from the city’s sheriff’s office observed customers entering Forest Hills’ Da Mikelle Palace — located at 102-51 Queens Boulevard, between 68th Avenue and 68th Road, and part of a state-designated red zone area — even though the establishment’s lights were turned off and it appeared closed. Deputies heard music upon getting closer and entered to find dozens of people “eating, drinking, and dancing without facial coverings or adherence to social distancing protocols,” according to state documentation.
A third bar — Wise Bar & Grill, in Sheepshead Bay — located within an orange zone, also had its liquor license suspended after officers from the multi-agency state task force monitoring violations observed multiple customers eating indoors on October 16, even though it was prohibited.
39 Fantastic’s phone went unanswered on Friday, a staffer at Da Mikelle said the establishment had no more details to share at this time, and a staffer at Wise Bar & Grill declined to comment. An additional six bars and restaurants located in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens had their liquor licenses suspended as well, but none are located within the COVID-19 shutdown zones.
Following a spike in COVID-19 cases in parts of Brooklyn and Queens in late September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a zoned shutdown plan for several neighborhoods in the boroughs including Borough Park, Sunset Park, Forest Hills, and Rego Park, among several others. Restaurants and bars in the so-called red zone — areas with the highest positivity rate for COVID-19 cases — were restricted to takeout and delivery; in the orange zone, establishments could also do limited outdoor dining in addition to takeout and delivery; and finally in the yellow zone, both indoor and outdoor dining was allowed but with only four people per table.
After a two-week observation period, Cuomo moved all the affected Queens neighborhoods to the yellow zone this week after cases there had stabilized. But parts of Brooklyn like Borough Park still remain in the red zone, though neighborhoods like Sunset Park have also moved into the yellow zone.
The liquor license crackdowns announced Friday are the latest effort by the state to go after social distancing and other COVID-19-related protocol violations. Since the start of the pandemic, 238 restaurants and bars across the state have had their liquor licenses suspended due to a variety of violations, and an additional 1,362 establishments have had charges filed against them, but those haven’t been deemed severe enough to warrant a liquor license suspension.