• The bar declared itself an “autonomous zone”
  • The owner was arrested for violating state orders
  • Hundreds of protests, many maskless, demonstrated against the closure

Hundreds of protestors defied safety guidelines put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 to express outrage over the closure of a bar in New York’s Staten Island.

People crowded Wednesday night in front of Mac’s Public House on Staten Island – many maskless and packed shoulder-to-shoulder – one day after city officials closed the bar down for violating restrictions in place to control the pandemic. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has implemented a tiered-lockdown and the bar is inside an “orange zone,” meaning it’s only permitted to serve take-out.

Daniel Presti, a co-owner of the bar, was arrested this week after a police operation found 14 people eating and drinking inside the facility. The bar’s lawyer, a cook, and a bartender were charged along with Presti for violating the orders, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday.

According to the Washington Post, the bar has also been operating without a liquor license.

Presti had declared his bar an “autonomous zone” in defiance of the state’s restrictions. The establishment was operating past curfew and was asking for a mandatory $40 donation for service.

State Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Republican who was himself almost arrested for trying to enter the bar this week, complained the restrictions were excessive.

“We watch people loot our businesses but when the government loots his business, the owner is arrested,” Lanza told the Daily News.

Protests against social restrictions are not isolated to New York. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, is facing articles of impeachment filed by state members of his own party for his efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus in his state.

“Rather than hearing the cries of Ohioans, Gov. DeWine continues to stifle those cries by finding more inventive ways to use masks to muffle the voices of the people,” said State Rep. Becker, one of the four filers.

Relative to other states in the Midwest, new cases of COVID-19 in Ohio are higher, putting the state within its own limits for a state-to-state travel ban, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Staten Island cases, meanwhile, are relative to the other four boroughs in New York City, though less than new cases in Brooklyn or the Bronx, state data shows.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement Wednesday urged caution given “this second wave that's been bearing down on us.”

staten island A church stands in the Staten Island neighborhood of Tottenville on Nov. 20, 2020 in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images