Rising coronavirus cases in Staten Island have placed parts of the borough in the "orange zone" of coronavirus restrictions, which include the closing of "high-risk, non-essential businesses," and an end to indoor dining. One Grant City bar, however, is refusing to close its doors. Hit with fines, a shut-down order from the Health Department, and having its liquor license suspended, Mac's Public House says it exists in its own "Autonomous Zone," referencing the self-organized space declared in Seattle's Capitol Hill in June. Signs outside the building make the claim, reading, "We refuse to abide by any rules and regulations put forth by the Mayor of NYC and Governor of NY State."
Co-owners Danny Presti and Keith McAlarney have been posting videos to YouTube explaining their stance. "We’re not backing down," McAlarney says in one of them. "You think you scared me by... saying I don’t have a license now to serve liquor now? Well guess what? That liquor license is on the wall. If that liquor license is gonna come off the wall, it’s gonna be done by Cuomo. You wanna come down here and pull that license off the wall? De Bozo, you want to come down here and pull the license off the wall? Feel free to end up comin’ down, and we’ll end up having a conversation before you even think about stepping foot on my property. I will not back down."
They also addressed the daily fines they've been receiving. "At this point, we’re OK with it, because we’re not paying it," Presti said. "[The Sheriff’s Department] is issuing us $1,000 fines, so they keep coming back. We’re still here. We’re not letting them in." Watch the videos below.
New York Post reports on Saturday (11/28), the bar was open, but they weren't charging people for food and drinks, in an attempt to exploit a supposed loophole in Cuomo's "Zone" system where it applies only to businesses. "If you come into Mac’s it’s free," McAlarney told Staten Island Live. "If you wish to make a donation that’s great. If you decide to stay that’s even better!"
A spokesperson for the State Liquor Authority said that there is no loophole, continuing, "In order to protect New Yorkers’ health and safety during this public health emergency, the SLA suspended Mac’s Public House’s liquor license and the Department of Health issued a Section 16 Order after investigators found the premises flagrantly violating COVID-related regulations in the Staten Island Orange Zone. These rules are designed to protect New Yorkers during a dangerous increase in COVID cases, and ignoring them just a week after we had to open a surge hospital on Staten Island not only demonstrates an utter disregard for New Yorkers’ health, but is clearly illegal. The state is working with the NYPD and NYC Sheriff’s office to monitor compliance."
Meanwhile, Mac's set up a GoFundMe, where they are trying to raise $500,000:
Mac's Public House is a small bar and restaurant in Staten Island, NY that has been decimated by the closing of the Corona Virus. With more closures on the way, we decided something must be done and to stand up to the very ones that are supposed to be supporting and helping us. Small businesses have received zero support from our local government, and they have been sending agencies from all over to fine us for any and all new violations, even when we're all being safe. None of this is right and our Constitutional rights have been stripped away. We've all been shuttered and struggling since the first shutdowns. Mac's Public House decided to take a stand for what is right, and we now ask for your support. With your help and donations, we will continue the fight to stay open, and anything we receive in excess of what we need will go towards assisting other small businesses fighting fines and getting reopened. This is where we take our stand and we do it together. This isn't just for Mac's, this is for all of us.