Staten Island bar that declared itself 'autonomous zone' shut down, GM arrested

Thursday, December 3, 2020
' stand up,' NYC bar owner says after manager arrested
Naveen Dhaliwal reports from Staten Island where sheriff's deputies shut down a bar and arrested the general manager.

STATEN ISLAND (WABC) -- Sheriff's deputies are taking extraordinary measures in an ongoing battle with the owners of a Staten Island bar, moving in Tuesday night to shut down the establishment and arresting the general manager.

Mac's Public House on Lincoln Avenue still has its windows plastered with signs calling it an "autonomous zone," but now, the sheriff's office is in control.

Crowds shouted at deputies as they led the restaurant's general manager, Danny Presti, out in handcuffs after repeated warnings to stop serving customers indoors.

WATCH | Newscopter 7 was overhead as hundreds gathered outside the bar later Wednesday night:

Newscopter 7 was overhead as hundreds gathered outside the bar later Wednesday night.

Wednesday morning, attorney Louis Gelormino told Eyewitness News the charges included disorderly conduct along with civil fines.

"I can assure everybody there wasn't a person in the place that was disorderly, disrespectful, or not courteous," he said. "Executive orders are emergency powers that are supposed to be short lived and narrowly tailored."

Owner Keith McAlarney said he took the actions he did because his business would not survive another shutdown. Mac's Public House is located in Grant City, a coronavirus hot spot, and with hospitalizations surging, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered indoor dining suspended there.

The Staten Island bar that declared itself an autonomous zone is testing a new tactic in hopes of staying open.

Now, McAlarney is encouraging other business owners to follow his lead.

"We are just trying to make a living and feed our families," he said outside the tavern Wednesday. "We jumped through every hoop, did whatever they did. But at some point, you can't just keep shutting down."

He says business owners are suffering and desperate, especially when nearby establishments are in different zones.

"You can go to the top of that hill at Lincoln Avenue and Richmond Road, and you can go inside and eat," he said. "But you can't go inside my establishment and enjoy a cold beer and cheesesteak with friends and family."

He claims his business is being targeted and that he's taking proper precautions.

"Since 10 years old, everybody wanted to be fireman and cops, and I wanted to own a bar," he said. "It's being stripped from me."

He says it's time to fight back.

"It's time for all small businesses and citizens to stand up," he said. "If enough business owners throughout this city, state, country, open their doors and disobey these tyrannical orders, hopefully they can get their businesses back and we can get country back to where it needs to be."

Many area residents say they're siding with Mac's.

"I'm disappointed they are going around arresting business owners," neighbor Chris Hunt said. "I'm a responsible adult. If I want to go in there. I should be allowed to go in there."

For days, management had been thumbing their nose at the restrictions, even offering free drinks while requesting "donations" to skirt regulations. Officers stood guard Tuesday night to prevent anyone from reentering.

"This man was arrested for trying to earn a living and trying to pay his taxes," Staten Island Borough President candidate Leticia Remauro said. "That is insanity."

The Department of Buildings returned Wednesday to the pub, which plans to stay closed while McAlarney figures out his next steps.

Lucy Yang reports the Staten Island bar that declared itself an autonomous zone was shut down on Tuesday night.

"This is disgusting," one community activist said. "This is selective enforcement. This is unconstitutional."

Protesters say they plan to come back Wednesday night.

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