Hundreds protest over shutdown of New York’s ‘autonomous zone’ bar
The owner of a New York City bar was arrested Tuesday for continuing to provide indoor service despite coronavirus restrictions that forbid indoor dining. On Nov. 22, Mac’s Public House announced on Facebook that they were an “autonomous zone.”
“As of November 20th 2020, we have declared Mac’s Public House an Autonomous Zone. We would like to clarify what this means, specifically to us, and how we’ll operate business going forward. The simple answer to most questions is Mac’s will be doing ‘business as usual.’ In the event of a shutdown, we will continue to stay open,” they wrote on Facebook.
A week after the Facebook post, the New York State Liquor Authority suspended the bar’s liquor license after an investigator was prohibited from entering the bar. That day, owner Danny Presti announced that the bar would serve alcohol and food indoors for free in exchange for a “donation.”
Undercover sheriff’s deputies went inside the bar Tuesday and ordered food in exchange for the required $40 “donation.” Deputies then shut down the bar and began issuing citations to employees for violating local and state restrictions, New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito told ABC News.
Presti was charged with obstruction of governmental administration in addition to the charges from serving unauthorized food and beverage, the sheriff said. A cook, bartender and the bar’s lawyer were also charged.
A video posted to YouTube by the Associated Press shows Presti being led out of the bar by sheriffs while a crowd chants, “Stand your ground!” “F— Cuomo!” and “Open up!”
The bar has been fined thousands of dollars as it continued to serve customers inside and to operate past the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurant service that Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed citywide.
A large crowd began to assemble outside of the bar Wednesday to protest the restrictions.
The bar was closed for business Wednesday. Eight NYC sheriff officers were seen guarding the bar entrance.
Mac’s Public House is raising donations through their Facebook page by selling t-shirts printed with “We Stand With Mac’s Public House” and “We hereby declare this establishment an autonomous zone. We refuse to abide by any rules and regulations put forth by the Mayor of NYC and Governor of NY state.”
The bar’s defiance is part of a larger pushback from bars and restaurants in New York City as hundreds of bars and restaurants have permanently closed because of coronavirus restrictions.
“What we will not be doing is living in fear. By fear, we mean the constant threat of our local city and state governments sending agencies in to check up, fine and threaten to shut us down. Every day small businesses are living in fear, not just of this virus, but that our governments will take our livelihoods away, even as we’re being safe. Just to clarify, we acknowledge this virus as a real threat and are still taking necessary precautions. What we do not acknowledge is that our government has the right to shut us down when we’re operating in a safe manner,” Mac’s Public House wrote on Facebook.
“We should not live in fear of our government, and this is how we’ve felt for almost an entire year. At a time when our local government should have assisted and helped us, they have done exactly the opposite. This a vote of no confidence of the leadership of this city and state. We are New Yorkers, and we are stubborn and we are proud but more importantly we are a community. We need to be there for each other and we promise Mac’s Public House will be there for each and every one of you. We hope you have a great holiday and you and your family are safe. When you’re ready, Mac’s will be here doing “business as usual.”