ALBANY, N.Y. – In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo established a multi-agency task force to inspect bars and restaurants, to ensure state guidelines are followed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Since then, the State Liquor Authority has issued several citations, and revoked some liquor licenses entirely. Both Dick Smith’s Tavern in Utica and Side Street in Mohawk have had their licenses suspended for violating social distancing guidelines and not enforcing face coverings.
Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-47, has expressed concerns with the SLA suspending licenses and issuing violations so quickly, when businesses are already struggling.
“I understand that there should be consequences for businesses who violate the state’s statutes during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Griffo. “However, at a time when many businesses are facing severe economic struggles and confusion as a result of inconsistent and ambiguous orders from the state, there should not be a one strike and you’re out policy.”
Griffo says the establishments should have a chance to rectify the situation before losing their licenses immediately, arguing that bail reform is more lenient than these new policies.
“While I recognize the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of employees and patrons, bars and restaurants should be given the opportunity to correct violations before they are penalized more harshly,” he said. “Someone can commit a crime and be released back onto the street thanks to the bail-related changes now in place in New York, but a restaurant can potentially lose its liquor license for its first infraction. These approaches and policies challenge businesses and contribute to the state’s exodus.”
Games like darts, cornhole and pool have also been banned, and bars are taking a hit, losing customers that come in for leagues and tournaments. Griffo argues that these policies are also preventing businesses from stabilizing after being closed for several months.
“Once again, we are seeing inconsistent policies that only cause confusion and erode the credibility of directives from the state,” Sen. Griffo said. “In New York right now, you can bring reusable and potentially contaminated bags in and out of stores and homes, but you can’t touch a dart, pool cue or beanbag. I get that protocols need to be in place, but we should be finding ways to help businesses during this unique and challenging time.”
For more information on SLA guidelines, click here.