Lawyer for NYC Bar Owner Arrested for Defying COVID Restrictions Criticizes Sheriffs’ Conduct

Zachary Evans

The lawyer for a New York City bar owner arrested for opening his business in defiance of coronavirus restrictions criticized the Sheriff’s Department for its conduct during the incident.

Danny Presti, owner of Mac’s Public House on Staten Island, chose to keep his bar open after Governor Andrew Cuomo declared part of the island an “orange zone” due to rising numbers of coronavirus cases. New York restrictions for an orange zone ban indoor dining, however Presti’s business partner Keith McAlarney told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson on Monday that they needed to open to stay afloat financially.

“They spent $150,000 to [first] open the place, and they opened two months before COVID. Two young guys with five children between them,” Presti’s attorney Lou Gelormino told National Review on Wednesday. The pair spent an additional $25,000 to reopen over the summer according to new social distancing requirements.

While Presti’s bar falls within the boundary of the orange zone, it sits almost on the border itself. This was another reason Presti and McAlarney chose to remain open.

Cuomo “decided, in all his wisdom, to make half of Staten Island an orange zone, meaning that a block and a half away from Mac’s Public House you can sit down and eat, and in Mac’s Public House you can’t,” Gelormino said.

The New York City Health Department ordered the bar to close on November 24, two days before Thanksgiving. After Presti and McAlarney refused, the State Liquor Authority suspended their liquor license on November 27.

Then, New York City Sheriffs conducted a plain-clothes operation at the establishment.

“The business received numerous complaints for indoor dining in an Orange Zone and operating past the 10 p.m. curfew imposed by the Governor’s Executive Order,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement provided to National Review. After plain-clothes officers observed violations of coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday evening, “deputies issued appearance tickets for multiple violations of city and state laws to employees of the establishment.”

Both Presti and Gelormino, who were on the premises at the time, were issued tickets for failure to observe order and failure to protect public health and safety, among other charges. After his arrest, Presti was given desk appearance tickets for disorderly conduct and trespassing, even though he was arrested in his own establishment, according to Gelormino.

“The sheriffs gave me four criminal summonses for doing absolutely nothing, just being [Presti’s] attorney,” Gelormino said. “They completely lied on them. We were nothing but polite and respectful and courteous.”

“At no time was there even a hint of disorderly conduct, even when Danny got arrested,” Gelormino said, adding that sheriffs arrested Presti after he refused to leave the premises.

As of Wednesday, the seven-day average coronavirus positivity rate stood at 8.6 percent in the zip code where Mac’s Public House is located. Presti and McAlarney are currently discussing their plans to move forward.

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