The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the liquor license of Alfonso Cabrera, doing business as “Metapan Pizzeria Ristorante” at 326 Webster Avenue in New Rochelle. The licensee was found operating in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order, which requires bars and restaurants to cease on-premises service of food and alcoholic beverages to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
On May 9th, officers with the New Rochelle Police Department conducted an inspection following complaints the business was violating social distancing guidelines with more than a dozen patrons drinking inside the premises. Officers observed a group of six patrons leaving as they arrived, but found the front door locked. Hearing music playing inside, officers knocked on the door and were finally allowed in, where they found at least ten individuals drinking beer around a pool table in an unlicensed back room of the premises. The owner’s son, acting as manager was warned that service inside the premises was a violation, with police referring the matter to the SLA.
On May 22nd, the SLA and New Rochelle Police Department conducted a follow up inspection, discovering twelve individuals inside the premises, including four patrons drinking beer at and near the bar, four in the back room drinking and playing pool, in addition to four employees. The owner’s son, present at the time of the inspection, claimed he was unable to prevent his loyal customers from drinking inside without losing their business. The business was again warned to cease on premises sales. Four days later, on May 26th New Rochelle Police Department officers made another visit to the premises, finding three patrons drinking at the bar.
On May 28, 2020, the SLA charged Metapan Pizzeria with several violations including failure to comply with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders concerning COVID-19 restaurant restrictions and failure to supervise the licensed premises.
“Despite multiple chances to take warnings from the police seriously, this licensee continued to blatantly disregard the health and safety of their patrons, the police and community,” said SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley. “Now is not the time to forget about the lifesaving protocols in place. The SLA with continue to hold our licensees accountable.”
The emergency suspension was ordered by Chairman Vincent Bradley, Commissioner Lily Fan, and Commissioner Greeley Ford at a special meeting of the Full Board, conducted by a digitally recorded video conference call under social distancing guidelines, on May 29, 2020. The Full Board found that it could have no confidence that the licensee would follow the EO going forward.
The State Administrative Procedure Act authorizes a State agency to summarily suspend a license when the agency finds that public health, safety, or welfare requires emergency action. When the SLA summarily suspends a license, it also serves a Notice of Pleading alleging one or more disciplinary violations. In invoking a summary suspension, the SLA has deemed the violation to be sufficiently serious upon initial review to warrant an immediate suspension. The SLA’s decision to summarily suspend a license is not a final determination on the merits of the case. The licensee is entitled to an expedited administrative law hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. An order of summary suspension remains in effect until such time as it is modified by the SLA or a reviewing Court.