NEW YORK - New York City sheriff's officers on Tuesday evening slapped the handcuffs on a co-owner of a Staten Island pub that declared itself an "autonomous zone" and refused to close despite being in a coronavirus hotspot.
Members of the sheriff's office started surveillance on Mac's Public House in the Grant City neighborhood just before 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Deputy sheriffs say they witnessed multiple people entering and remaining inside the pub. That's when plain-clothes deputies went in.
They said they ordered food and booze in exchange for a mandatory "donation" of $40.
About 5:40 p.m., uniformed deputies went in and found 14 people inside. They issued tickets to employees for multiple violations and arrested co-owner Daniel Presti for obstruction of governmental administration. He was taken to the sheriff's office and released after being issued appearance tickets.
About 50 protestors gathered outside the bar as deputy sheriffs remained on the scene. The protest remained peaceful and no arrests were made.
Last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed new restrictions on businesses in areas with spikes in COVID-19 cases. The measures were part of an Orange Zone declaration.
But the owners of Mac's Public House on Lincoln Avenue refused to close.
They declared it an "autonomous zone" that they claim was free from public-safety restrictions. A sign on the door says: "We refuse to abide by any rules and regulations put forth by the Mayor of NYC and Governor of NY State."
"At some point, we said we had to do something because we were just going to close again," Presti said.
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They've been hit with thousands of dollars in fines, a shut-down order from the state health department, and the bar's liquor license has been revoked but they had been defiantly staying open.
The State Liquor Authority said a license is needed to serve alcohol, whether they charge for it or not.
In a statement to FOX 5 NY, the SLA said: "Investigators found the premises flagrantly violating COVID-related regulations" and the operation "is clearly illegal."