Protesters endured the near-freezing weather on Wednesday night to show their support of a defiant New York City bar that was shuttered by lockdown orders that banned indoor dining at bars and restaurants.
The owners of Mac's Public House in Staten Island decided two weeks ago that their establishment would become an "autonomous zone," in an attempt to skirt the coronavirus lockdown orders enacted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).
The bar is located inside an "orange zone," which stipulates: "Restaurants, bars, cafes and other food service establishments can provide outdoor dining and takeout and delivery service only. There is a four-person maximum per table. No indoor dining is allowed."
The bar attempted to circumvent the coronavirus restrictions by offering free drinks, while asking for "donations."
Deputy sheriffs entered the bar undercover and noted that they observed 14 people drinking and eating at around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
On Tuesday night, the New York City Sheriff's Department raided Mac's Public House for defying the COVID-19 lockdown orders. Law enforcement shut down the business and arrested Danny Presti, who is the bar's co-owner along with Keith McAlarney.
Presti was charged with obstructing governmental administration, according to NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito. Presti was issued a desk appearance ticket and set free later that evening.
Lou Gelormino, an attorney who represents Mac's Public House, told the Staten Island Advance that Presti was arrested because he refused to vacate his business "and at that point ... they considered it trespassing."
"I can assure everybody there wasn't a person in the place that was disorderly, disrespectful, or not courteous," Gelormino informed WABC-TV. "Executive orders are emergency powers that are supposed to be short lived and narrowly tailored."
Attorney Mark Fonte, who also represents the tavern, said, "We urge our friends in the restaurant industry to be as resilient as possible while we appeal this decision."
"These sheriff's officers are 'wannabe' cops," Fonte proclaimed. "This is what happens when little people get a little power. Each one of them will have to answer to a federal judge. The issuing of summonses to an attorney for representing his client will not be dealt with lightly. I would advise the issuing sheriff to lawyer up immediately."
On Wednesday, state Sen. Andrew Lanza was restrained outside Mac's Public House. Police stopped him from entering the restaurant and said only legal counsel could enter. Lanza declared that he is a "free-of-charge attorney," and police asked for a retainer.
"I got a piece of cardboard and I drew up a retainer," Lanza told the Staten Island Advance. "I signed it. The owner came out and signed it, which is legally binding."
Authorities said his retainer was not valid, and he was prohibited from entering the building.
"I took a step toward the door so they started to grab me and I said 'OK, I won't go in,'" Lanza said. Police officers restrained Lanza and then released him.
The Sheriffs Department attempted to detain State Senator Andrew Lanza for providing legal council to the owners of… https://t.co/GQjK8kuUDu— LiquidLunchTV (@LiquidLunchTV)1606938648.0
"Somebody's got to stand up for the little guy and that's what I am trying to do here," the Republican from Staten Island explained. "People are frustrated, they are angry and they are a little defiant. And it's understandable."
"We respect law enforcement on Staten Island like no other place," Lanza told the sheriffs. "We also have questions as American citizens. You just took out one of our constituents, one of our neighbors, a business owner, in handcuffs. I asked why."
By Wednesday night, approximately 2,000 supporters of Mac's Public House showed up for a rally outside the bar that was shut down. Police guarded the pub and prevented anyone from entering.
A huge group of people gathered outside the Staten Island bar – in the middle of a COVID hot zone – that was shut d… https://t.co/7RJ99y6TAP— Eyewitness News (@Eyewitness News)1606962648.0
Meanwhile, the frustrated yet spirited protesters waved American flags while chanting: "U-S-A! U-S-A!" and "TRAITOR!" The protesters were energized and sang Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" in unison.
At times, the protest turned into a rally for President Donald Trump, complete with people singing the Village People's 1978 hit "YMCA," which POTUS danced to at rallies in October.
Sheriffs temporarily moved onto the protesters who appeared to be dancing on Sheriff’s car ram rack, they soon afte… https://t.co/NrV6irCc7e— @SCOOTERCASTER (FNTV) (@@SCOOTERCASTER (FNTV))1606962121.0
Artist Scott LoBaido delivered an impassioned rant: "Patriotism is not just hanging your flags out on the Fourth of July. You know what's patriotism? This is f***ing patriotism."
Joe Caldarera, an attorney, was at the event and said, "People are fed up! Loved the energy tonight at the Mac's Public House Rally." He shared video of the crowd chanting: "Open up!"
People are fed up! Loved the energy tonight at the Mac’s Public House Rally https://t.co/QIdjSgctNs— Joe Caldarera (@Joe Caldarera)1606960026.0
Nicole Malliotakis was named the winner of New York's 11th Congressional District election by the Associated Press on Monday, which includes all of Staten Island and some of Brooklyn. Malliotakis, a Republican, endorsed the protest on Wednesday night.
"Hundreds of Staten Islanders turned out tonight in support of Mac's Public House and by doing so sent a loud and clear message to @NYCMayor & @NYGovCuomo; New Yorkers are sick & tired of their double standards, arbitrary restrictions, heavy-handed attacks on businesses and restraints they've placed on the freedom of individuals," Malliotakis wrote on Twitter.
"It's outrageous that @senatorlanza was almost arrested for attempting to enter Mac's to consult with it owners," she continued. "Gov & Mayor are killing small businesses, destroying dreams & unfairly punishing constituents for simply trying to lead a normal life."