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Cuomo Threatens to Suspend Liquor Licenses of NYC Establishments That Don’t Enforce Social Distancing

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The governor announced Thursday that the city’s bars and restaurants would be responsible for maintaining social distancing guidelines

Groups of people, some wearing masks, are clustered outside a restaurant on a street that has no traffic
New Yorkers clustered outside West Village spot Extra Virgin
Robert Sietsema/Eater

Bars will be held responsible for crowding and other social distancing violations outside their establishments, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his daily press conference, threatening shutdown orders or liquor license suspensions for establishments that don’t comply.

New York City remains in a limited phase one reopening, with outdoor dining or drinking not formally beginning until Monday, June 22. Bars and restaurants, however, are allowed to offer takeout, and the state began to allow to-go alcoholic beverages in March. Those rules, combined with warm weather and a populace that’s largely been in lockdown for the past three months, have led to crowds gathering outside of eating and drinking establishments throughout the city.

Cuomo, accordingly, said today that he’s signing an executive order to expand the enforcement areas of the State Liquor Authority, giving bars the responsibility to maintain social distancing guidelines and other policies “immediately outside of their locations,” per one of the slides the governor shared during his press conference.

Bars or restaurants found in violation of reopening guidelines will risk losing their liquor licenses immediately, Cuomo said.

The state has received over 25,000 complaints of health-safety violations since the pandemic began in March, Cuomo said on Sunday, with Manhattan and the Hamptons having racked up the highest number of complaints.

Widely-viewed social media posts showed revelers spilling into the street on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village last weekend; few of them were wearing masks or observing adequate social distancing. The reports prompted Cuomo to threaten rolling back or shutting down reopenings, citing virus spikes in Texas, California, and elsewhere.

The city has deployed over 2,000 social distancing ambassadors to remind people to wear masks and stand six feet apart.