- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2020

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio admonished people seen crowding outside bars Saturday night – many with drinks in hand but no masks on their faces – for putting lives in danger. Officials may shut down establishments that break distancing rules, de Blasio said.

City bars and restaurants have been restricted to takeout and delivery since mid-March, when coronavirus cases started to soar, but some in Manhattan were allowing people to dine and drink inside on Saturday.

“We’re not going to tolerate people starting to congregate. It’s as simple as that,” de Blasio said. “If we have to shut places down, we will.”

After a rash of violent social distancing arrests involving people of color, the city this week eased distancing enforcement by no longer having police break up small groups of people or confront citizens failing to wear a mask.

As the weather heats up, though, more and more New Yorkers are flocking to public spaces and familiar haunts for a sense of normalcy after spending most of the last two months cooped up inside – and not always policing themselves.

Parks, boardwalks and beaches attracted big crowds on Saturday, though city beaches aren’t officially open and won’t be for Memorial Day weekend.

Other beaches in the region will be open for the holiday, but de Blasio said opening the city’s strands “is not the right thing to do in the epicenter of this crisis.”

The city’s beaches could be closed off completely to public access if people don’t follow social distancing rules, he said. Fences being installed at entrances could be rolled out if beaches – meant now only for nearby residents to exercise – get overcrowded or people violate swimming bans, he said.

De Blasio said beaches could open for wider use sometime in the summer, with lifeguard training over the next few weeks for a possible return to duty.

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