New York drops the hammer on restaurant after mask-less ‘Covid conga line’ goes viral

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Authorities in New York State have revoked the liquor license of a restaurant in New York City after it hosted a party for a GOP group that included a mask-less ‘Covid conga line.’

Local reports noted that attendees of the party, which was held right before Christmas last month at the Il Bacco restaurant in Queens, included members of the Whitestone Republican Club and that one member, James Trent, fell ill with COVID-19 symptoms two days later.

Video of the party, that went viral, shows several people dancing without masks, which prompted the New York Liquor Authority’s action, NBC New York reported. Also, the same video shows very little social distancing, if any at all.

“In early December we held a small gathering observing all the covid guidelines in place at the time,” the club noted in a Facebook post. “Every attendee was told to wear a mask and everyone either had one when entering or was given one.”

The group also defended itself.

“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 noted further.

“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,” the post added.

But an angry Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) described the dancing last month as a “Covid conga line,” NBC News reported.

“Conga lines are not smart,” Cuomo complained to the press at the time. “Why you would do an unmasked COVID conga line in the middle of a COVID pandemic — whatever your political persuasion — defies logical explanation as far as I’m concerned.”

At the time of the party, restaurants in New York City were only authorized to open to indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, which many owners say is not nearly enough to break even, let alone make a profit.

In an interview with the Queens Daily Eagle, Trent said he believed he was safe because he “wasn’t doing anything risky,” did not participate in the conga line dance, and ate by himself.

NBC New York reported that at least one other attendee and his wife also tested positive for the virus.

Before revoking Il Bacco’s license, the State Liquor Authority said it conducted an investigation and found several COVID-related violations such as too many diners in an enclosed space and restaurant staff not properly wearing masks.

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“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,” the State Liquor Authority told NBC News in a statement.

“This summary suspension should send a strong message that we have zero tolerance for establishments that put New Yorkers’ health at risk,” the SLA added.

Il Bacco now faces a raft of fines — $10,000 per violation — and could lose its liquor license permanently, NBC New York reported.

Nevertheless, the Whitestone Republican Club noted it was impossible to say that Trent contracted the virus at the party.

“We wish the best to Jim Trent for a speedy recovery and understand that his hospitalization was purely precautionary, and that he is being released today,” the club noted in a Friday statement posted on Facebook.

“Whether he contracted the virus at our event, his club’s holiday party held a few days prior, or in the normal course of life will likely never be known.”

Jon Dougherty


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