It was bound to happen, and now it’s starting. Small business owners are beginning to fight back against elected officials who demand they close their companies. Small loans, if approved, will only do so much. After months of being closed or restricted to greatly reduced capacity, the thought of another lockdown is too much to handle. It’s even worse during the holidays, when most businesses usually see an increase in customer volume and purchases. Restaurant and bar owners in New York and Washington state have had enough and refuse to bow to the governors’ pandemic mandates.
Staten Island Business Manager Goes to Jail
Keith McAlarney is the co-owner of Mac’s Public House in Grant City. He’s one of the thousands of business owners trying to stay afloat during the coronavirus lockdowns. This time, however, he simply refused to shut his bar down and went so far as to take a page out of Seattle, WA’s book, declaring the establishment an “autonomous zone.” The disobedience didn’t last long though once a police sting shut down the business, locked the doors, and arrested the general manager.
Hundreds of people took exception to this encroachment and protested in the streets, stopping traffic outside the pub on Dec. 2. Throughout the day and into the night, while sheriff’s deputies guarded the entrance of the bar, the crowd yelled in anger at the officers, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for placing such restrictions in the first place.
For the past two weeks, McAlarney kept the bar open despite it being in the orange zone, where the virus has a higher number of infections. On Dec. 1, the New York City Sheriff’s Office said deputies went into the bar after complaints reached them about indoor dining past the 10 p.m. curfew. Dressed in plainclothes, they saw 14 people sitting inside the bar, eating, and drinking. After they tattled on the business, uniformed deputies went in to save the day, issuing tickets for both state and city violations, according to a press release from Sheriff Joseph Fucito.
General manager Danny Presti, 34, was arrested for obstruction of governmental administration as well as other charges for allowing food and beverage service. He was released shortly afterward. One of the tavern’s attorneys, Lou Gelormino, was also ticketed at the time. He said Presti was arrested because he wouldn’t leave the business and “at that point … they [deputies] considered it trespassing.” Mark Fonte is another attorney for the bar. He said, “These sheriff’s officers are ‘wannabe’ cops. This is what happens when little people get a little power.”
The decision to keep the tavern open for service resulted in a $1,000 per day fine, a cease and desist order, and suspension of the company’s liquor license. McAlarney, however, does not regret the choice. “It’s time for all small businesses and every citizen, it’s time to stand up and open up,” he said. “All small businesses stand up. The citizens are there, they want you open. We need to make a living.” His manager, Presti, agreed:
“Every single thing we can do to keep people safe we have. Meanwhile, if we take a ride over to Lowe’s and Home Depot now, there’s 500 people walking around and touching everything. Besides having sanitizer when you walk in, what’s the safety procedure?”
Health officials claim the reason is because you can’t wear a mask while you’re eating or drinking. McAlarney wasn’t having any of it, though. “If you’re gonna let big companies do it, you should have found a way to let small businesses be able to do it too.” He added:
“If you feel, and you’ve done your research, and you believe that this is something that could end up causing someone in your family to get sick – they choose to stay home. I’m not trying to trivialize anyone who has to go through this. Believe me, I would not do that. I am a very sympathetic person. I would give the shirt off my back to help anybody. But in America, everybody has a choice on how it is they end up wanting to live their lives.”
Two Businesses Defy Gov. Inslee’s Mandates in WA
While nothing quite so dramatic has happened in Washington – yet – two business owners have decided to remain open despite Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) restrictions against indoor dining. Both establishments are in the western part of the state, the most liberal part. One is in Olympia, the capitol itself where the governor sits on his third-term throne.
“I was up all night,” said Brian Robbins, owner of Farm Boy in Olympia, “weighing the good and the bad, and the good outweighs the bad.” So he decided to keep the business open despite the government mandate. Robbins knows he could lose his business by defying the governor but said it’s worth the risk. “We might shut down if we don’t do what we’re doing,” he said.
The decision was inspired by Spiffy’s Restaurant and Bakery in Napavine. The owner, Rod Samuelson, is doing the same thing. For Samuelson, it’s part business decision and part protest. He said he would not be able to keep his staff of about 30 employees if they had to rely on take-out only orders. After saying his employees are number one, he added, “It’s a protest” against Inslee.
They are not the only businesses facing fines and loss of state licenses. Labor and Industries spokesman Tim Church said that the state sent an “order of notice and immediate restraint” to The Fairway Café in Lynden after it was allegedly caught allowing indoor dining.
who can blame these people? Their livelihoods are on the line. Already they have had to endure months of lost business while struggling to pay the bills and take care of their families. Governors imposing such impossible restrictions need to wake and up realize what’s going on before they have a full revolt on their hands.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.