Health and Science

New York Gov. Cuomo says state has suspended 27 liquor licenses for violations of social distancing rules

Key Points
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the state liquor authority has suspended 27 licenses.
  • Cuomo said bars "exploited the existing regulations" by taking outdoor dining as an opportunity to facilitate outdoor drinking when that was not what the government authorized.
  • He said the state will have to roll back bar and restaurant reopenings if he continues to see groups of people congregating at them.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a COVID-19 briefing in New York City.
David Dee Delgado | Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday the state liquor authority has suspended 27 bar and restaurant alcohol licenses for violations of social distancing rules as public officials try to keep the coronavirus outbreak under control. 

"I'm sorry it's come to this, but it's a dangerous situation, and I've said it many, many times," Cuomo said during a press conference call. "We never opened bars. This was a violation by them from the beginning." 

In just New York City and Long Island, the state took action by suspending liquor licenses in four bars and restaurants. The governor listed three in Queens and one in Suffolk County.

"We are quite serious about it," he said, adding that the state has filed 410 charges against New York eating and drinking establishments. 

Unlike other states, New York does not have separate liquor licenses for bars and restaurants, according to Cuomo.

"We never authorized bar operations," he said. "By the words themselves, outdoor dining is not a bar operation. The word is dining. You don't dine when you go to a restaurant to drink. That is drinking, and it would've been outside drinking that we authorized."

Cuomo: Crowds of young people at bars are 'a threat' to the state's reopening

Bars "exploited the existing regulations" by taking outdoor dining as an opportunity to facilitate outdoor drinking, the governor said. He added that this is "now a significant problem" as more young people are seen drinking in open spaces. 

"It's younger people in bars, that is the issue. And we know the younger people can transmit it easily and that's where the problem is coming from," he said.

Cuomo warned Monday that groups of young people congregating at bars and restaurants, especially in the New York City area, are "a threat" to the state's reopening plans. 

He said his office received reports of crowding and mask violations over the weekend in the New York City area, and in some instances, there were as many as 700 people drinking in an open space and violating the state's open container law.

"We will have to roll back the bar and restaurant opening if the congregations continue, if the local governments don't stop it, that is what is going to happen," Cuomo said Monday at a news briefing.

New York City was cleared to enter phase four of reopening on Monday but with some restrictions. Phase four will allow for more outdoor activities such as zoos, outdoor films and gardens. However, indoor operations, such as eating in restaurants and shopping at malls, will remain closed, Cuomo said Friday.

The governor threatened to close businesses that violate distancing policies last week. Citing "significant evidence of failure to comply" at restaurants and bars in New York City, he said the state will close restaurants after three violations. 

"Three violations and you're closed. We're also going to post the names of the establishments facing disciplinary charges," he said.

Cuomo also called out local governments for not taking enough action on Tuesday. He has previously said that local police departments and governments that aren't enforcing the state's social distancing policies "are not doing their job." 

"The state is not the primary enforcer of these laws. The local governments are. I have been asking them for weeks to step up and do their job," he said during Tuesday's call.