A Staten Island pub located in a coronavirus hot spot is stealing a page from Seattle’s anarchist cookbook, declaring itself an “autonomous zone,” free from the public-safety restrictions its owners say they will refuse to abide by.
“!ATTENTION! We hereby declare this establishment an !!!AUTONOMOUS ZONE!!!” read signs outside and around Mac’s Public House in Grant City, invoking a phrase more commonly associated with the monthlong occupation of Capitol Hill in the Emerald City by anti-cop radicals. “We refuse to abide by any rules and regulations put forth by the Mayor of NYC and Governor of NY State.”
The state had been warning for weeks that the South Shore was on the path to orange-zone status, based on the area’s consistent and surging coronavirus positivity rate, and on Monday, Gov. Cuomo made the call.
Restrictions, including the prohibition of indoor dining in bars and restaurants, took effect Wednesday.
But Mac’s balked, and defiantly kept its doors open — despite being slapped with thousands of dollars in fines, a shut-down order from the state Health Department and the Friday revocation of its liquor license by the State Liquor Authority, the owners said.
The sign at Mac’s Public House on Staten Island.
Photo by Daniel William McKnight
“At this point, we’re OK with it, because we’re not paying it,” co-owner Danny Presti said. “[The Sheriff’s Department] is issuing us $1,000 fines, so they keep coming back. We’re still here. We’re not letting them in.”
Co-owner Keith McAlarney backed up his partner’s declaration of COVID independence.
“We’re not backing down. You think you scared me by . . . saying I don’t have a license now to serve liquor now? Well guess what? That liquor license is on the wall. If that liquor license is gonna come off the wall, it’s gonna be done by Cuomo. You wanna come down here and pull that license off the wall?” McAlarney says in a YouTube video posted Friday, the same day the bar’s liquor license was yanked.
“De Bozo,” he continued, presumably referring to Mayor de Blasio, “you want to come down here and pull the license off the wall?” “Feel free to end up comin’ down, and we’ll end up having a conversation before you even think about stepping foot on my property. I will not back down.”
On Saturday, the joint was operating like it was 2019, as a small group of patrons enjoyed cocktails inside the bar —on the house.
“Sure, you can have a drink, we’re not charging,” co-owner McAlarney said.
About five customers — most wearing face masks — showed up in about a two-hour span to support the bar, which appeared to be exploiting a loophole for “businesses” in Cuomo’s executive order by not actually charging customers.
“I totally support what he is doing. I don’t support the tyrannical nonsense they have in place,” said Keith Atherholt, 45, who left a $100 tip for a glass of water. “I gave them $100 for this water. They didn’t charge me. I gave it to support them.”
Two other couples were hanging out inside for about an hour and a half.
“He’s alright, he’s doing the right thing,” one person said as he left the bar with a woman and baby. The man declined to say if he and his wife paid for the pints of brew and finger food they gobbled inside.
Others stopped by the bar’s Facebook page to cheer the effort.
“Yes!! I keep saying, there’s more of us than them! Every single small business needs to stand together & do this! So much respect to you guys!! Good luck with everything!” Ashley Angelastri wrote.