Hundreds Protest Outside Staten Island Bar That Flouted COVID Regulations

by Christina Marfice

Mac’s Public House declared itself an “autonomous zone” from COVID restrictions, but Sheriff’s deputies shut it down anyway

As coronavirus cases continue to surge out of control across much of the U.S., state and local officials are, in at least some places, doing what they can to mitigate the pandemic, imposing new rules, regulations, and lockdowns to help prevent the spread of COVID and keep people safe. In State Island, after a local bar was shut down by Sheriff’s deputies for flouting rules against indoor dining, people gathered in huge crowds outside to protest.

Staten Island is a major COVID hotspot in the U.S., and local officials are doing all they can to help slow the spread of the disease as cold weather and the holidays hit. Mac’s Public House, a bar on Lincoln Ave., ignored local regulations the prohibit indoor dining, and plastered its windows with signs calling it an “autonomous zone.”

“We refuse to abide by any rules and regulations put forth by the Mayor of NYC and Governor of NY State,” the signs read. Owner Keith McAlarney said he was encouraging other local businesses to follow his lead and do the same, despite rising COVID cases in the area.

“You can go to the top of that hill at Lincoln Avenue and Richmond Road, and you can go inside and eat,” he told local news outlets. “But you can’t go inside my establishment and enjoy a cold beer and cheesesteak with friends and family.”

He added, “It’s time for all small businesses and citizens to stand up. If enough business owners throughout this city, state, country, open their doors and disobey these tyrannical orders, hopefully they can get their businesses back and we can get country back to where it needs to be.”

The reason for the seemingly uneven enforcement, according to a local ABC affiliate, is that McAlarney’s bar is near the border of Grant City, a part of Staten Island where cases are soaring and stringent measures are being taken to prevent COVID from spreading.

Protesters gathered outside the bar on Tuesday said they felt businesses weren’t being treated fairly across the board.

“This is disgusting. This is selective enforcement. This is unconstitutional,” one said. Protesters also said they planned to come back on other nights throughout the week.

Staten Island currently has the highest COVID case positivity rate in New York City. It’s the only borough without a city-run public hospital, and amid rising cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo just opened a field hospital there to create more space for coronavirus patients.