The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) summarily suspended the license of Luke’s Lounge Inc., doing business as “Café Serata” at 1808 Hone Avenue in the Bronx today. The bar was found repeatedly operating in violation of the Governor’s Executive Order to cease on-premises sales of food and alcoholic beverages to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Following numerous complaints and 311 calls, on March 19th New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers issued a warning and dispersed a crowd of over thirty patrons found consuming alcohol inside the premises. The NYPD was called to the premises on March 20th when officers again issued a warning and closed the business. On March 21st in response to a resident complaint, officers discovered the curtains in front of the establishment closed in an attempt to avoid detection. Once inside, NYPD officers discovered seventeen patrons inside consuming alcohol and issued a summons to the manager. Finally, on March 22nd in response to a 911 call, NYPD officers again observed over a dozen patrons drinking both inside and directly in front of the establishment with the same manager present.
On March 30, 2020, the SLA charged Café Serata with multiple violations, including for its failure to comply with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders concerning COVID-19 restaurant restrictions and for its failure to supervise the licensed premises.
“Despite repeated warnings, this licensee continued to operate in clear defiance of the Governor’s directive, and in crass disregard for the health and safety of their patrons, police and the public,” said SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley. “While we thank the majority of businesses who are adhering to these essential measures in the face of this unprecedented health crisis, it should be crystal clear the SLA will not hesitate to take immediate actions to protect the public against the spread of the coronavirus.”
The emergency suspension was ordered by Chairman Vincent Bradley, Commissioner Lily Fan, and Commissioner Greeley Ford at a meeting of the Full Board, conducted by videotaped conference call under social distancing guidelines, on April 1, 2020. During the suspension period the SLA intends to seek the permanent revocation of the license.
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.