Crowded bars face crackdowns

Newsday, July 28

Must be nice to forget about the pandemic.

That’s the only explanation for what happened among the crowd of people who appeared close to a stage and not social-distanced in a video of a Saturday Water Mill charity concert, which included performances from electronic music duo The Chainsmokers, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, and “DJ D-Sol.” That last is Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon, according to the concert organizer’s “Event Overview” included in the permit. It was billed as a “drive-in music experience in the famous summer hot spot, the Hamptons,” with the assumption that people would stay safely separate in and around their cars. Video suggests there was mingling by the end and a shocking lack of oversight by the town. Schneiderman now expresses regret about what happened.

The disregard for other people’s health and safety is glaring, made worse by the arrogant impression that wealth might protect you from following mere governmental guidelines. The state is investigating how this mess was allowed to happen, including actions taken by promoters, the town, and local law enforcement. That’s good. No one is above the law or pandemic-related executive orders.

That includes pleasure-seekers with less money in their wallets who have been looking for their kicks in Long Island bars and clubs. We must commit to being careful. Current state guidelines allow bars and restaurants to serve drinks and food but with smart limits. Those rules on capacity and requirements regarding masks and social-distancing have helped New York State cling to a low infection rate, even as the virus climbs elsewhere. Places like Texas and Kentucky have been forced into even more limits on bars. Many of these outbreaks appear linked to the activities of young adults, the same cohort in New York that has had an alarming jump in infections.

We don’t want New York’s infection rate to climb, further jeopardizing our local economy and disrupting our lives. To avoid it, businesses and patrons need to be sensible and think about the greater good.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday announced a new round of liquor license suspensions for bars found to be egregiously violating pandemic-related executive orders, bringing the statewide total to 45 places with licenses suspended and 503 fines. Repeated, flagrant offenses must be addressed. So it’s smart that Nassau and Suffolk county police will work this weekend to help State Liquor Authority enforcement teams identify and crack down on offenders.

Some Long Island spots have been part of the problem over the last few weeks and have had their licenses suspended — Island Park’s Dox, which the state says was warned about congregation, and Secrets Gentleman’s Club in Deer Park, which featured shared stage poles. Liquor license suspensions can be disastrous for businesses, and it’s important that they are allowed to have expedited hearings to get suspensions lifted when warranted. But when they are undermining public safety, they should be shut down.

Don’t forget about the pandemic. The virus doesn’t make mistakes, we do.

By Paul Wager