STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s crackdown on restaurants that fail to comply with coronavirus (COVID-19) mandates, the Marina Cafe — a 4-decade-old Great Kills eatery with an outdoor tiki bar — had it’s liquor license suspended on Friday, according to the State Liquor Authority (SLA).
Co-owner Rob Parascandola, who has owned the restaurant with two partners for the last five years, said the suspension came without warning despite Cuomo’s recent declaration that restaurants would receive three warnings before having a liquor license suspended.
A spokesperson for the SLA told the Advance/SILive.com that on July 28, “investigators with the state’s multi-agency task force observed 20 patrons in addition to five employees inside the premises without facial coverings. Investigators also observed at least 10 tables where patrons were consuming alcohol with no evidence of food being served or having been consumed.”
Last month, Cuomo said all alcohol beverages served at restaurants or bars need to be accompanied by a food purchase.
According to the SLA spokesperson, suspension orders are served immediately and remain in effect “indefinitely,” with the maximum penalty being the permanent revocation of the license and fines of up to $10,000 per violation.
Licensees subject to an emergency suspension are entitled to an expedited hearing before a SLA administrative law judge, said the spokesperson.
“I have been in the restaurant business for 20 years and my goal is always to make sure all my employees and customers are safe and everything is clean,” said Parascandola.
He maintained that the Marina Cafe’s tiki bar has been closed during the pandemic. And all tables have been properly socially-distanced, he said.
“On July 28 the State Liquor Authority, a sheriff and detective came in, and they wanted to see the place. …They turned around and said we were doing a very good job of social distancing. The tables were 6-feet apart. And people were sitting down and they saw people wearing masks,” said Parascandola, who claims one of the task force members told him he was doing “a fantastic job.”
On July 31 at 8 p.m. Parascandola said representatives of the SLA arrived at the Marina Cafe and presented him with a liquor license suspension.
“I said, ‘Sir, I never received a fine or a written fine or a violation. I said, ‘How could you just come over and suspend my license?’ And he didn’t have an answer for me,” said Parascandola. “I asked, ‘Whatever happened to the three strikes rule?‘”
While a three strike rule does exist, an SLA spokesperson said that “egregious violations, including these, can result in the immediate suspension of a bar or restaurant’s liquor license.”
Upon receiving the liquor license suspension, Parascandola said he immediately stopped serving alcoholic beverages at the Marina Cafe. The restaurant, however, will remain open, he said. Parascandola said he has yet to be notified of any hearing to have his liquor license reinstated.
SLA YOUTUBE HEARING
In a special SLA board meeting broadcast on YouTube, the SLA appears to review the task force’s visit to the Marina Cafe.’ In the broadcast, members of the SLA reviewed photos taken at the Maria Cafe. One SLA member says she can’t tell if the establishment is inside or outside from the photos.
Another SLA representative mentions a “gated pool,” which doesn’t exist at the restaurant. Parascandola, nor any of his partners, were asked to be part of the hearing, Parascandola said.
“They said I have a pool and a tent. And I don’t have a pool or a tent,” he said. “They are claiming there was no food on the table ….and that we couldn’t show receipts. They didn’t ask to see any receipts, and I have hundreds of receipts from that day,” he said.
13,000 ESTABLISHMENTS VISITED
Cuomo said during a media conference call Saturday that the SLA state police task force visited about 1,000 establishments Saturday, issuing 36 violations. Since it started, the task force has visited 13,000 establishments, he said. The Marina Cafe is one of several restaurants on Staten Island that has received warnings, summons and/or violations.
“Cuomo has literally said to him [Parascandola] you can’t do business anymore,” said Leticia Remauro, secretary of the Staten Island Downtown Alliance. “In a competitive industry, like restaurants, to take your liquor license is basically saying, you’re out of business. …To do it without giving him an opportunity to answer is gestapo tactics.”
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Source: Thanks https://www.silive.com/coronavirus/2020/08/staten-island-restaurant-owner-says-no-warning-given-before-liquor-license-suspended.html