BAYSIDE, QUEENS — A Queens restaurant had its liquor license suspended after an investigation into what state officials called a "potential superspreader holiday party" hosted by the Whitestone Republican Club earlier this month.
Little Neck restaurant Il Bacco was cited for multiple pandemic-related violations — including indoor dining in a fully-enclosed rooftop space and staff improperly wearing masks — following a Dec. 23 investigation by the New York State Liquor Authority, an agency spokesperson told Patch.
The State Liquor Authority issued an emergency liquor license suspension the following day, which is in effect indefinitely pending a review by an administrative judge.
Il Bacco owners Joe Oppedisano and Tina Maria Oppedisano could not immediately be reached for comment. A recorded message says the restaurant will be closed until indoor dining resumes.
The restaurant has until Jan. 27 to respond to the State Liquor Authority's charges.
The investigation came after a video posted to social media showed attendees at the Whitestone Republican Club's Dec. 9 Christmas party dancing maskless inside the restaurant, in what some observers later referred to as a "covid conga line."
Three of the attendees have since tested positive for COVID-19, including one person who has been hospitalized with the virus, the Queens Daily Eagle reported Wednesday.
“After video surfaced of a potential superspreader holiday party at Il Bacco with maskless dancing, the SLA immediately launched an investigation," State Liquor Authority spokesperson William Crowley told Patch in an emailed statement.
"During a follow-up inspection, investigators found flagrant violations of indoor dining regulations and existing health safety and Alcoholic Beverage Control laws, while verifying the maskless party depicted in the video did in fact occur. This summary suspension should send a strong message that we have zero tolerance for establishments that put New Yorkers’ health at risk.”
State Liquor Authority investigators said the son of Il Bacco's owner and a customer, both of whom said they were present at the holiday party, confirmed that the "conga line" video was accurate.
In a statement posted to Facebook on Dec. 22, the Whitestone Republican Club pushed back on criticism of the holiday party for flouting coronavirus-related guidelines on social distancing, indoor gatherings and mask wearing.
About 50 people attended the party, and nearly all went without masks.
James Trent, board chairman for the Queens Village Village Republican Club, which also held an indoor holiday party, tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the Whitestone Republican Club's party and has since been hospitalized, according to the Queens Daily Eagle.
"Yes, we held a holiday party. A good time was had by all. We abided by all precautions. But we are not the mask police, nor are we the social distancing police," the club wrote. "Adults have the absolute right to make their own decisions, and clearly many chose to interact like normal humans and not paranoid zombies in hazmat suits. This is for some reason controversial to the people who believe it's their job to tell us all what to do."
In their investigation of Il Bacco, the State Liquor Authority also found multiple safety violations, including non-working emergency exit lights, improperly stored propane tanks and fire extinguishers that had not been inspected.
Emergency liquor license suspensions are imposed when the State Liquor Authority "finds the continued operation of a licensed business threatens public health and safety," the agency said.
Business owners can be fined up to $10,000 per violation and may have their liquor license permanently revoked by the state.
Earlier this year, Il Bacco spearheaded a $2 billion class-action lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the attorney general’s office over New York City's indoor dining ban.