Danny Presti Staten Island owner of Mac’s Public House busted in sting for flouting coronavirus restrictions as patrons support owner’s right to earn a living – but at whose expense?
Society in turmoil. A Staten Island bar owner providing indoor service in defiance of coronavirus restrictions was arrested Tuesday, following a sting in which plainclothes officers went inside and ordered food and beverages.
Come Wednesday night, some 2,000 people gathered outside outside Mac’s Public House chanting ‘Defund The Sheriff’, Cuomo sucks!’ and ‘USA USA’.
The tavern, which falls in an area designated by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo as an orange zone because of spiking COVID-19 rates had been banned from serving customers indoors. But the owners had declared the bar an ‘autonomous zone,’ a nod to protesters who claimed control over a Seattle neighborhood in June of this year following national race protests.
According to Sheriff Joseph Fucito, plainclothes deputies went inside Tuesday and ordered food in exchange for a mandatory $40 ‘donation.’ Uniformed deputies went in then and issued tickets for state and city violations.
For days, the bar’s management deliberately flouted state ordinances by offering free drinks while requesting ‘donations’ to skirt regulations.
‘We are just trying to make a living and feed our families,’
Bar owner Danny Presti, 34, was uncooperative and charged with obstruction of governmental administration in addition to charges stemming from unauthorized food and beverage service, the sheriff said.
The bar owner’s arrest follows Pesti continually flouting state demands to stop serving customers indoors.
Fellow owner Keith McAlarney said he felt compelled to take such measures because he felt his business would not survive another shutdown.
‘We are just trying to make a living and feed our families,’ he said outside the bar on Wednesday according to ABC7. ‘We jumped through every hoop, did whatever they did. But at some point, you can’t just keep shutting down.’
‘You can go to the top of that hill at Lincoln Avenue and Richmond Road, and you can go inside and eat,’ he added. ‘But you can’t go inside my establishment and enjoy a cold beer and cheesesteak with friends and family.’
McAlarney says he felt his business was being targeted and he was taking proper precautions.
‘Since 10 years old, everybody wanted to be fireman and cops, and I wanted to own a bar,’ he said. ‘It’s being stripped from me.
‘It’s time for all small businesses and citizens to stand up. If enough business owners throughout this city, state, country, open their doors and disobey these tyrannical orders, hopefully they can get their businesses back and we can get country back to where it needs to be.’
Lou Gelormino, an attorney who represents the tavern in its battle against the state and city, was there during Tuesday’s bust and was also ticketed.
Gelormino told the Staten Island Advance that Presti was arrested because he didn’t want to leave 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,’ attorney Gelormino told ABC7. ‘Executive orders are emergency powers that are supposed to be short lived and narrowly tailored.’
State Senator Andrew Lanza, a Republican, sought to calm the dozens of tavern supporters who jeered as Presti was led away in handcuffs.
Lanza said the bar owner should not have been arrested but added, ‘We respect law enforcement on Staten Island like no other borough.’
Presti owns Mac’s Public House with Keith McAlarney, who was not present during his arrest.
‘This man was arrested for trying to earn a living and trying to pay his taxes,’ Staten Island Borough President candidate Leticia Remauro said. ‘That is insanity.’
‘This is disgusting,’ one community activist said. ‘This is selective enforcement. This is unconstitutional.’
By Wednesday morning, Presti was released from custody with a series of tickets for various infractions, including running a pub without a license and in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions.
The bust comes within the space of 24 hours where the US recorded new all time high numbers as the pandemic continues to sweep the nation, with 100,200 patients alone admitted to hospital on Wednesday along with more than 2,670 deaths that day.
The US has to date ratcheted 14.3 million cases with 280K deaths as officials anticipate numbers to gravely accelerate leading into the winter months.