In the COVID-19 era, bars and restaurants must walk a fine line between enforcing infection control measures and helping customers feel welcome. It’s difficult, to say the least, and many venues are being punished for failing to follow state guidelines.
New York Governor Cuomo’s “Coronavirus Crackdown”
Local New York papers have coined Governor Andrew Cuomo’s efforts as his “coronavirus crackdown.” After spending months as the country’s COVID-19 epicenter, New York is now leading the way in recovery, and Governor Cuomo is not hesitating to take action against businesses that fail to follow those recovery stipulations.
In the last weekend of July alone, a total of 132 violations were issued for infractions such as overcrowding and staff or customers not wearing face masks. As Governor Cuomo explained, “I want the establishments to know that we will continue to diligently enforce the law.”
During the first weekend of August, the state’s multi-agency task force conducted 3,047 compliance checks and recorded violations at 106 establishments. While smaller infractions are punished by fines up to $10,000 per violation, severe infractions can result in the immediate suspension of a bar or restaurant’s liquor license.
Cuomo has made good on that threat. On August 3, he announced the suspension of 19 additional New York bars’ liquor licenses for “egregious violations of coronavirus-related regulations.”
State Liquor Authority Chair Vincent Bradley said, “Blatantly ignoring public health and safety is inexcusable and the State Liquor Authority will continue to seek out and shut down businesses refusing to comply with the Governor’s Executive Orders.”
Other States Follow New York’s Example
New York isn’t the only state using the threat of shutdowns, suspended liquor licenses, and steep fines to emphasize the importance of following coronavirus regulations.
In Baltimore, Maryland, the city’s first shutdown occurred in early August when a nightclub failed to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing rules.
“Events like those depicted on social media at Euphoria are exactly the type of ‘super-spreader’ events that have led to dozens of cases around the country,” Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa wrote in a statement. “While it is too soon to tell whether any coronavirus cases will be linked to Euphoria nightclub, the activities depicted on social media — lack of face coverings, lack of social distancing, large groups of people closely congregating — present clear risk to the patrons and staff at the establishment.”
Across the country in Denver, Colorado, at least 20 businesses have been cited for violating COVID-19 rules after Mayor Michael Hancock promised more stringent regulations and punishments to tackle the threat of the pandemic.
DDPHE Executive Director Bob McDonald said, “We’re hoping it’s going to make a big impact. We need to not just insure compliance. We want to go after the bad actors so that we don’t have to shut down everything again.”