Danny Presti, owner of a New York bar, was arrested “criminal trespassing” his own bar after he refused to comply with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Covid-19 lockdown orders.
Cuomo declared Presti’s bar, Mac’s Public House, to be in what is known as the “orange zone.” This means that Presti and co-owner Keith McAlarney must close down their establishment without compensation.
According to a report from Irene Spezzamonte, Presti and McAlarney were serving food and beverages, but they were not charging patrons any money. This was still in violation of Cuomo’s orders. “Although it was given away for free to patrons, the law does not permit service during the pandemic, per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate,” Spezzamonte said.
Presti was handcuffed and taken away while multiple police officers stayed outside the bar, blocking the entrance. A crowd of supporters quickly formed outside the bar, one of which was State Senator Andrew J. Lanza.
The Republican representative repeatedly asked the officers on the scene why Presti was arrested. He pointed out that Cuomo’s order only says that the business owners must “cease and desist.”
“This order simply says that they need to cease and desist,” Lanza told the officers. “Nowhere here is there an arrest warrant, nowhere here is anything about arresting anyone on their private property. So I’ll ask, [and] you don’t have to answer … why was he arrested? I was told you would tell me why he was arrested and now I’m asking for that answer.”
“So I see that you have the power to arrest people who are sitting in their own establishment, on private property,’’ Lanza continued. “Stick around. Here on Staten Island, we like law and order, but what I just saw here … it really deserves an explanation. Because it really confounds all of us here. … I can tell you, as an attorney, this piece of paper did not authorize what you did here.”
“At some point,” he added, “somebody’s gonna to have to answer for what happened here, because this is wrong.”
Lou Gelormino, Presti’s lawyer, told the crowd of supporters that his client is “on his way to the Sheriff’s Office right now, where, they assured me … they’re gonna issue him a desk-appearance ticket and release him, for criminal trespass because he wouldn’t leave his own establishment.”
“From what I understand, [Presti’s] arrested because he didn’t want to leave [his business], and at that point … they considered it trespassing,’’ Gelormino said. “I’d like to know why his attorney got three summonses for just being there and being peaceful and respectful and calm, and every one of these officers can attest to that.”
Gelormino was inside the bar when officers handed out summonses. He said he received a $5,000 summons himself. He was apparently “deemed an employee of the business” when police officers were on the scene.
“We urge our friends in the restaurant industry to be as resilient as possible while we appeal this decision,” said Mark Fonte, another attorney representing Presti’s business.
“These sheriff’s officers are ‘wannabe’ cops,” Fonte said. “This is what happens when little people get a little power. Each one of them will have to answer to a federal judge. The issuing of summonses to an attorney for representing his client will not be dealt with lightly. I would advise the issuing sheriff to lawyer up immediately.”