The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the liquor license of Antojitos De San Cecilio Inc., at 90-04 Jamaica Avenue in Queens. The bar was found operating in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order, requiring bars and restaurants to cease on-premises service of food and alcoholic beverages to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
On April 11th, New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers inspected the premises following 311 complaints the bar continued daily operations despite restrictions to combat the coronavirus. While the lights in front of the business were off and dimmed inside in an attempt to conceal activity, NYPD officers entered the premises after hearing loud music coming from inside the bar, discovering fourteen patrons inside. Officers observed three patrons sitting at the bar and three behind the bar with opened bottles of beer, in addition to eight patrons sitting at tables with buckets of beer. Police additionally reported there was no evidence of food being prepared for delivery or takeout. The owner, present during the inspection, was issued a summons for violating the Mayor’s Executive Order.
“Licensees flouting the ‘take-out only’ rule by serving patrons inside their establishments are breaking the law and putting themselves, their customers, police and all New Yorkers at risk,” said Chairman Vincent Bradley. “The SLA will continue investigating all complaints and working with local law enforcement in every community to ensure licensees are operating responsibly.”
On April 17, 2020, the SLA charged Antojitos with several violations, including failure to comply with Executive Orders concerning COVID-19 restaurant restrictions and for its failure to supervise the licensed premises. Licensees charged by the SLA face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation and the potential revocation of their liquor license.
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 videotaped conference call under social distancing guidelines, on April 20, 2020.
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.