Any New York bar or restaurant found to be in violation of the state’s reopening rules could now immediately lose their liquor license or be forced to shut down. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday signed two executive orders that would allow for officials to revoke liquor licenses if state guidelines are not followed. The governor’s second executive order holds bars responsible for the area in front of their establishment. The mandates come after Cuomo said he would reverse the reopening of some regions if the state’s guidelines were not followed. According to the governor, more than 25,000 complaints about businesses in violation of the reopening plan have been filed statewide since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with a majority of grievances made about restaurants and bars in Manhattan and in the Hamptons.
The governor has said it is up to local officials to enforce the guidelines. “We’re not going to go back to that dark place because local government didn’t do its job or because some individuals exploited the situation besides the legal violation,” Cuomo said on Sunday.
Last weekend, a slew of viral videos hit social media showing crowds of New Yorkers drinking outside of restaurants and bars without wearing face coverings. Videos and photos posted on Twitter showed social distancing rules and open container laws being violated on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, on the Upper East Side, and other neighborhoods throughout the city.
“These are not hard to spot violations. People send video of these violations, you can look it up on social media,” Cuomo said on Sunday. “You don’t need a detective squad to go out and find them. They are rampant and there’s not enough enforcement. I am not going to allow situations to exist that we know have a high likelihood of causing an increase in the spread of the virus.”
New York City entered phase one of reopening on June 8, which allows construction, manufacturing, and some curbside retail to restart. Outdoor dining would be allowed under the state’s second phase, which could start on Monday if COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward, both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo said.
Restaurant and bar owners are anxious to reopen, after being forced to close their doors to diners since March. Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said while the businesses are risking their reopening by violating state laws, it shows a need for clear guidelines for outdoor dining to be released now.
“However, this pent-up demand demonstrates why our restaurants and bars need a lawful, regulated outdoor eating and drinking system now, and must be provided clear guidelines and expectations on when they can open outdoors and inside,” Rigie said in a statement. “This is an extraordinarily trying time for the City of New York and we must run our businesses responsibly, in accordance with government requirements, while demanding that our elected leaders provide us sufficient support to save our industry. ”
When city restaurants can reopen for outdoor dining, tables must be spaced six feet apart, staff must wear face coverings, and customers must also wear face coverings when not seated, according to state guidelines. Earlier this month, the mayor revealed the “Open Restaurants” program, which would streamline the process for restaurants to set up sidewalk seating, let restaurants convert adjacent parking spots into seating, and allow seating areas on streets currently closed to cars.
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This story was originally published on June 15, 2020, but has since been updated with Cuomo’s new executive orders issued on Thursday.