By Mark Hallum
After a weekend that saw carefree parties go on at bars and restaurants in Queens and Manhattan, despite the COVID-19 pandemic threat, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he’s had enough.
In no uncertain terms, Cuomo said at a July 20 briefing at JFK Airport that he would hold city leaders to their responsibility to halt crowding on streets, and shut down the businesses not monitoring compliance from patrons.
“Don’t be stupid,” Cuomo said, scolding the congregants and the bars that welcome them. “What they’re doing is stupid and reckless for themselves and for other people, and it has to stop.”
The governor originally made that threat in June as New York City began reopening, and eateries were empowered to open outdoor dining. Now, Cuomo is reaffirming that the State Liquor Authority will be a key player in stopping the spread by eliminating bad actors if NYPD and other city agencies do not put their foot down.
“We know enough about this virus, we know that there are inevitable consequences to our actions. If you have congregations of people, they are going to spread the virus,” Cuomo said. “You could kill someone. There hasn’t been any social responsibility at all. It’s not just about you… I’ve said it repeatedly that local governments are in charge of compliance and enforcement.”
Calling out no one in particular, but referencing New York City and Long Island repeatedly, Cuomo told elected leaders that while enforcing guidelines may come with added unpopularity, a potential increase in the spread would be far worse.
“That’s going to be more politically difficult than telling NYPD to do their job,” Cuomo added.
Mayor Bill de Blasio took to social media Sunday night to announce that the city Sheriff’s Department would be patrolling Steinway to disperse enforce social distancing and mask violations.
With bars on Steinway Street in Astoria being the latest example of party-goers abandoning masks for a little short-term enjoyment, Cuomo said his policy will aim to hold problematic establishments accountable first by pulling the liquor license after three infractions.
An online petition launched over the weekend demanded stricter enforcement of the strip after “Steiami” became a trending topic on Twitter.
“The bad restaurant and bar owners are going to make it bad for the good ones. Most restaurants and bars are going to comply, they’re going through a very tough economic situation, but they’re living by the rules,” Cuomo said. “The bad ones that are exploiting the situation and breaking the law – it’s not just morality, they’re breaking the law – are going to make it bad for everyone. The local governments are not doing their job. We cannot allow those congregations to continue. If it happens, we’re going to have to roll back the opening plan and close bars and restaurants.”
Who are these bad actors?
Queens Councilman Costa Constantinides pointed the finger at a watering hole called Melody at 25-95 Steinway St. in a letter he issued to Vincent Bradley, the chairman of the SLA.
“This location has been in business for quite some time and over the years it has grown to be evermore problematic causing more quality of life issues, especially in terms of violent incidents amongst patrons,” said Constantinides, who is a COVID-19 survivor.
The legislator said Melody was also the site of a March 2019 shooting. When officers arrived at the scene, they found a large, disorderly crowd.
“It’s clear that this business has failed in maintaining safety and has become a magnet for bad actors,” Constantinides said. “Moreover, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the location has become problematic to neighbors in terms of noise and large crowds that flout social distancing rules.”