NYC bar owner who defied COVID-19 rules arrested in sting

An owner of a New York City bar that was providing indoor service in defiance of coronavirus restrictions was arrested after a sting in which plainclothes officers went inside and ordered food and beverages, the city sheriff’s office said. Protesters shouted as deputies arrested Danny Presti, the co-owner of Mac’s Public House on Staten Island, on Tuesday.

The tavern is in an area designated by Governor Andrew Cuomo as an orange zone because of spiking COVID-19 rates and was not supposed to be serving customers indoors. But the owners had declared the bar an “autonomous zone,” a nod to protesters who claimed control over a Seattle neighborhood in June.

Mac’s Public House posted a video on its Facebook page showing officers issuing tickets inside the bar. A separate post from the tavern included the message: “Share our story and urge other small businesses to join. We are here to help others fight back and join us. Together we can do what’s right.”

The bar has been fined thousands of dollars as it continued to serve patrons inside and to operate past the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurant service that Cuomo imposed citywide.

According to a release from Sheriff Joseph Fucito, plainclothes deputies went inside Tuesday and ordered food in exchange for a mandatory $40 “donation.” Uniformed deputies went in then and issued tickets for state and city violations.

Presti, 34, was uncooperative and was charged with obstruction of governmental administration in addition to the charges stemming from unauthorized food and beverage service, the sheriff said.

Lou Gelormino, an attorney who represents the tavern in its battle against the state and city, was there during the bust and was also ticketed. Gelormino told the Staten Island Advance that Presti was arrested because he didn’t want to leave his business “and at that point … they considered it trespassing.”

Another attorney for the bar, Mark Fonte, told the newspaper, “These sheriff’s officers are ‘wannabe’ cops. This is what happens when little people get a little power.”

CBS New York reported that Mac’s Public House is covered with signs and markings declaring it an “autonomous zone.” The sign on the door reads, “We refuse to abide by any rules and regulations put forth by the Mayor of NYC and Governor of NY State.”

State Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Republican, sought to calm the dozens of tavern supporters who jeered as Presti was led away in handcuffs. Lanza said the bar owner should not have been arrested but added, “We respect law enforcement on Staten Island like no other borough.”

Presti owns Mac’s Public House with Keith McAlarney, who was not present during the enforcement action Tuesday.

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