The owner of a pub in Staten Island was arrested on Tuesday evening, just days after the bar declared itself an “autonomous zone” and eschewed the state’s coronavirus curfews and restrictions on indoor dining.
Danny Presti, who owns Mac’s Public House along with Keith McAlarney, was led out of the bar in handcuffs at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a report from Staten Island Live. Dozens of residents gathered in front of the pub following the arrest, including dozens of restaurant owners, with some chanting ”hands off Mac’s Public House.”
Andrew Lanza, a Republican state senator, joined protesters following the arrest. “We respect law enforcement on Staten Island like no other place,” Lanza said in a speech. “We also have questions as American citizens. You just took out one of our constituents, one of our neighbors, a business owner, in handcuffs. I asked why.”
Presti was charged with ignoring a cease and desist order previously issued by the State Liquor Authority (SLA), NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito tells Gothamist. A bartender and a cook at the restaurant were issued $1,000 fines for continuing to serve customers, while Lou Gelormino, an attorney inside the bar at the time of the arrest, was considered an employee of the business and charged $5,000.
The neighborhood pub, located in a state-designated orange zone, has refused to comply with local COVID-19 regulations in recent days, even as positive cases surge in the area. On November 27, the SLA suspended the bar’s liquor license after Presti declared Mac’s Public House an “autonomous zone” exempt from city and state regulation and continued to operate after the state-mandated 10 p.m. curfew.
Presti claimed the bar was exploiting a loophole by accepting donations instead of charging customers for menu items, according to Gothamist. The SLA and mayor’s office have since clarified that doing so does not constitute a “loophole.”
“COVID-19 doesn’t respect autonomous zones, and neither does the sheriff,” mayoral spokesperson Mitch Schwartz told Gothamist. “There are consequences for endangering your neighbors in a pandemic.”
Coronavirus cases continue to rise across New York state, and Staten Island has been especially hard hit in recent weeks. The seven-day-average of those tested in the borough is 4.8 percent at the time of writing.