A New York pub that declared itself an “autonomous zone” last week in a bid to stay open amid lockdown restrictions, was shut down by authorities on Tuesday and its owner arrested, according to reports.
New York City Sheriff’s Department deputies took Mac’s Public House co-owner Danny Presti into custody after he refused to leave the establishment, according to ABC7. An attorney cited by the outlet said Presti would face charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.
Leticia Remauro, a candidate for Staten Island borough president, denounced Presti’s arrest.
“This is atrocious, this man was arrested for trying to earn a living and pay his taxes. That is insanity,” Remauro said, according to the outlet.
A livestream from inside the pub, posted on the Mac’s Public House Facebook page, showed a calm scene as about a half dozen law enforcement agents milled about, some filling out paperwork. Outside, a number of sheriff’s deputies stood by while a group of onlookers had gathered, according to a video posted on social media, with the narrator decrying the shutdowns of small businesses and calling for a protest on Wednesday.
Following a spike in cases of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced tighter curbs last week, with part of Staten Island, where Mac’s Public House is located, designated a medium-risk orange zone. The new restrictions, which include the closure of many businesses deemed nonessential and limiting restaurants to outdoor dining and takeout, went into effect on Nov. 25.
Since then, the pub continued to operate in defiance of the shutdown order, with management posting a sign declaring the establishment an “autonomous zone,” and featuring the message, “We refuse to abide by any rules and regulations put forth by the Mayor of NYC and Governor of NY State.”
Presti said in a Nov. 27 video that the pub was issued thousands of dollars in fines, adding, “The Health Department has given us a close-of-business order, the liquor authority has now revoked our liquor license, so this is what we’re going to do—we’re going to give everything away for free.”
While the tactic to remain open involved not charging customers, they did ask for donations, seeking to raise $500,000 via a GoFundMe page.
Presti wrote on the donation page that the pub “has been decimated” by the COVID-19 restrictions and complained his rights were being violated.
“None of this is right and our constitutional rights have been stripped away,” he wrote. “We’ve all been shuttered and struggling since the first shutdowns,” he wrote, vowing to “continue the fight to stay open.”
The other co-owner of Mac’s Public House, Keith McAlarney, told NBC New York that he believes small businesses are being unfairly targeted by the restrictions.
“We need to stay open,” McAlarney told the outlet, saying he needs to run his business to pay bills and support his family. “If you’re gonna let the big companies do it, you should have found a way to let small businesses be able to do it too.”
Around a third of small businesses in New York remain shuttered compared to January, according to a Harvard-run database that tracks the economic impact of the pandemic.