Cuomo to crack down on bars, restaurants not following pandemic rules

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday a new "three strikes" policy that will require bars and restaurants to close after they receive three citations for failing to follow the rules to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, including mask-wearing and keeping people 6 feet (2 meters) apart. 

Cuomo said the state is fielding thousands of complaints on top of "significant evidence of failure to comply" among restaurants and businesses, particularly downstate. He said "egregious violations" can still result in the immediate loss of a liquor license, and warned that the state would post names of restaurants and bars in violation.

"The state itself has looked at over 5,000 establishments in downstate New York and found many cases of a failure to comply," he said. "It's wrong, it's dangerous, it's selfish, it's unacceptable, it's also illegal."

Bartender Lindsay Pace pours a beer for a customer at Shade Bar NYC in Manhattan, Monday, June 22, 2020. (AP photo)

And restaurants and bars across New York can no longer allow walk-up bar service, or serve alcohol to people who aren't buying food, he added. 

He called on local governments to better enforce safety guidelines. 

"I'll tell you what's less politically popular — if we have to close down a region because compliance wasn't done," he said.

Cuomo said New York City is on track to move to the fourth phase of his gradual reopening plan, but said his administration will review the latest infection data and decide by 4 p.m. Friday. The rest of the state is in Phase 4, which typically permits opening malls and certain arts and entertainment centers and restarting professional sports games without fans. 

But Cuomo said no "additional indoor activity" will open in New York in the fourth phase because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus indoors. Cuomo hasn't allowed New York City to open up indoor dining, unlike the rest of the state. 

"You see the inside, interior spaces, air conditioned spaces, where the virus is tending to spread," Cuomo said in a Thursday conference call with reporters. "So we're going to take that precaution in New York City."

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art had announced plans Wednesday to open August 29. 

"I think they can plan to reopen. And then we'll see what the facts say," Cuomo said. 

About 1% of 72,000 COVID-19 tests conducted Wednesday were positive in New York, according to Cuomo's office. Meanwhile, 14 people died in hospitals and nursing homes.

New York is also launching a national advertising campaign encouraging people to wear masks, said Cuomo, who has expressed concern about rising infections out-of-state. He announced a $2,000 fine for airport travelers from states with high infection rates who don't fill out a form to help New York track compliance with a 14-day quarantine requirement.

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