- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2020

The fight to keep open Mac’s Public House may look like a squabble over public health rules, but for the bar’s patrons, the battle has all the hallmarks of a class struggle pitting Staten Island’s Joe Sixpacks against the Big Apple’s elite.

Staten Island community leaders came out Monday to cheer on co-owners Keith McAlarney and Danny Presti, who have landed in legal trouble for keeping the pub’s doors open in defiance of a shutdown order banning indoor dining while decrying the “emperor.”

That means New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who warned Monday that he would shutter indoor dining entirely in New York City unless hospitalizations stabilize.

“Bill de Blasio and Cuomo have told the people of Staten Island the country that if you speak up to the emperor, you get closed,” Staten Islander John Tabacco, executive producer of Liquid Lunch, said at a press conference outside the pub.

Mr. McAlarney accused the political establishment of “trying to crush the little man who dares to speak up.”

“It’s a tale of two cities,” Mr. Tabacco said. “Walmart just announced they’re paying $700 million in bonuses, and Staten Island restaurant owners are getting arrested two times in a week for trying to make a hundred bucks.”

The Democratic leaders swung back Monday by blasting Mr. Presti, 43, who was charged Sunday with slamming his Jeep into a sheriff’s sergeant during an arrest. Mr. Presti, who was arrested last week for violating the city order, said he did nothing wrong. His attorney said the officers failed to identify themselves.

Mr. Cuomo called Mr. Presti a “coward” and asked those who were protesting at the pub last week whether “that’s who they’re championing.” Mr. de Blasio called the accusations “extraordinarily disturbing.”

“He’s making a big deal about what’s happened with his bar,” Mr. de Blasio said at a press briefing. “Well, guess what? Law and order means when the state of New York says your bar needs to be closed, your bar needs to be closed to protect people’s health and safety. No excuses.”

Meanwhile, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” mocked the Mac’s Pub protest. Staten Islander Pete Davidson said he was “just happy that I’m no longer the first thing people think of when they say, ‘What’s the worst thing about Staten Island?’”

“The argument that people in Staten Island don’t want to drink outside can be disproven by going to literally any Little League game,” the comedian said.

Mr. Tabacco said he was stunned by the comment. “The ignorance is so high that on national television, they find it funny that small-business owners are trying to feed their families while the millionaires sit in their perch,” he said.

“Instead of making fun of their friends and the local business owners who are broke and crushed and bankrupt, instead of coming down here as fellow Staten Islanders and standing up for them and bringing a positive light to this thing, what they want to do is go on national TV and try to humiliate the little man when he’s down,” Mr. Tabacco said. “And to me, that’s quite disgusting.”

New York City Council member Joe Borelli, citing an Oct. 6 IndieWire report, said in a social media post that the cast of the NBC show failed in some instances to wear masks and socially distance themselves, and that the program was able to resume with a live audience by paying them as employees.”

“‘SNL’ was allowed to do this because of a loophole in the law,” Mr. Borelli said in a video from an empty movie theater. “The building I’m in right now was not given the same opportunity.”

The Washington Times has reached out to NBC for comment.

About 1,000 restaurants have gone out of business permanently in New York City since the start of the pandemic in March, according to an August report in the New York Eater.

‘Living in La-La Land’

A similar drama is playing out in California, where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s tightening of coronavirus restrictions has triggered protests and petitions against what small-business owners have decried as a breathtaking ignorance of the average person’s life on the ground.

Angela Marsden, owner of the Pineapple Hill Saloon and Grill in Sherman Oaks, said Sunday that “we will do whatever it takes to keep our people safe,” but “the decisions that are being made make no sense.”

“We know COVID’s out there,” Ms. Marsden said on Fox’s “The Next Revolution.” “But you’re living in La-La Land if you think the rest of us, the middle class and the lower middle class, can actually stay at home. … How are we going to eat and keep a roof over our head?”

Her viral video showing her restaurant’s outlawed patio next to catering tents for a television production crew filming NBC’s “The Good Girls,” which were authorized by Los Angeles officials, prompted an outcry over what critics denounced as a double standard for the entertainment industry.

“It’s real frustrating because you have our governor — he says he’s a restaurateur and he’s sympathetic with us and how we feel, and I think to myself, man, you have no clue how I feel,” Allen Adams, owner of the Paragon Grill in Northridge, said on Fox News. “You’re still getting a paycheck. You’re still paying the government employees. I can’t even pay my employees right now.”

Shortly before Thanksgiving, New York City officials downgraded Staten Island’s South Shore from yellow to orange, which meant restaurants could no longer offer indoor dining. Outdoor eating and takeout are still allowed.

The pub drew headlines after declaring that it was an “autonomous zone,” a reference to the Seattle Black Lives Matter protest encampment that took over a six-block area in June, and continued to serve customers.

Mac’s Pub attorney Lou Gelormino decried the lines as arbitrary. He said the bar was less than two blocks away from the yellow zone.

“If we can go a block and a half and get a cheeseburger, this place should be open,” Mr. Gelormino said. “If anybody can show me science that the COVID virus stops at the railroad tracks, we’d be more than happy to shut down. Until then, we’d like the same consideration given to the other half of Staten Island and being able to serve our cheeseburgers and our beer here.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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