New York bar infamous for defying COVID-19 lockdown laws padlocked by sheriff's deputies

"If I go in and clip the lock, it means I go to jail," the bar owner said.

March 28, 2021, 5:43 PM

A New York City bar infamous for its owners repeatedly defying Gov. Andrew Cuomo's COVID-19 restrictions was padlocked by sheriff's deputies after a judge heard evidence that it was serving alcohol without a license -- again.

New York Sheriff's deputies slapped padlocks on the doors of Mac's Public House in Staten Island on Friday after New York State Supreme Court Justice Catherine DiDomenico issued the latest in a series of temporary closure orders.

In a statement on Facebook, Danny Presti, the tavern's general manager and co-owner, said he was resisting the urge to cut the locks off his establishment's doors to resume business.

Presti said he will wait for his next court date on April 9, when his lawyers plan to challenge the constitutionality of the COVID-19 mandates Cuomo ordered in an attempt to blunt the spread of the virus.

"In the meantime, if I go in and clip the lock, it means I go to jail -- not just like thrown in a holding cell like before, it means Rikers Island, 30 days in Rikers," Presti said.

PHOTO: New York City Sheriff's deputies stand outside Mac's Public House after co-owner Danny Presti was arrested in the Staten Island, New York, Dec. 1, 2020.
New York City Sheriff's deputies stand outside Mac's Public House after co-owner Danny Presti was arrested in the Staten Island, New York, Dec. 1, 2020.
Steve White/AP, FILE

But Presti said he and business partner Keith McAlarney plan to keep fighting in court.

"April 9, we're coming for you, and it can't come soon enough because this is finally the time when we get to say that none of this is right, that our constitutional rights have been taken away, that these mandates are absolutely ridiculous and it's absurd that a year later we're still doing this," Presti said.

The bar's ongoing defiance of the state's COVID-19 rules has made the business a lightning rod for people demanding that Cuomo end his executive orders and completely open up the state for business.

In early December, several hundred supporters of the bar owners protested outside the watering hole after it was shut down and Presti was arrested. At the time, authorities alleged that undercover sheriff's deputies were served alcohol there. The neighborhood Mac's Public House is located in was then deemed by Cuomo to be a virus-risky "orange zone," meaning indoor dining was prohibited.

PHOTO: People protest outside of the Mac's Public House after closed it down amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Staten Island, New York, Dec. 2, 2020.
People protest outside of the Mac's Public House after closed it down amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Staten Island, New York, Dec. 2, 2020.
Jeenah Moon/Reuters, FILE

Days after his arrest, officials alleged Presti hit a sheriff's deputy with his car while attempting to flee the bar where he was again serving booze and food to patrons inside. He was then taken into custody again.

A grand jury declined to indict Presti in January.

The ongoing feud between the bar owners and the government started back in November when Presti and McAlarney were stripped of their liquor license for violating the COVID-19 executive orders by keeping their doors open for business.

Presti and McAlarney attempted to declare Mac's Public House an "autonomous zone" offering food and alcohol on the house, but asking patrons for tips and telling authorities they were not welcome.

Attorneys for the pub said the city dismissed more than 25 criminal summonses for the establishment in December after it stayed open for indoor dining and past curfew despite being in the orange zone.

Cuomo lifted the orange zone mandates at the end of January.

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