Iconic Manhattan Restaurant Shuts Down Over Social Distancing Violations

A landmark Manhattan bar — known for serving icons like Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac — shut down this week after having its liquor license suspended for repeatedly violating social distancing guidelines over the last month.

New York State's Liquor Authority issued the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village an emergency liquor suspension on July 8, marking the first establishment in New York City to be penalized since outdoor dining began on June 22, Eater first reported.

The 140-year-old bar was slammed with 30 citations, according to a document from the SLA.

Officials cited "multiple counts of failure to comply with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders concerning COVID-19 restaurant restrictions, operating an unauthorized outdoor bar and failure to supervise the licensed premises."

“Despite numerous warnings, this licensee continued to recklessly violate protocols that have helped to dramatically slow the spread of the coronavirus throughout New York,” SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley said in the release.“The SLA will not hesitate to take action against licensees who jeopardize lives and threaten the progress our state has made.”

In mid-June, an undercover investigator visited the bar and was able to purchase alcohol without food, a clear violation of the state's reopening plan.

NYPD officers found as many as one hundred customers outside the bar on multiple occasions. Less than a week later, before outdoor dining was allowed to resume, officials saw 67 patrons drinking in front of the establishment.

According to the New York Daily News, officials warned tavern owner Eytan Sugarman multiple times of his direct violations.

Sugarman told Eater that he found the suspension to be "grossly unfair," sharing that he tried to abide by the guidelines, even handing out masks to patrons and hiring a security guard to enforce policies.

“I put up signs, refused service to people without masks,” Sugarman told the outlet. “But they want me to police that people aren’t standing six feet apart. I don’t have the right to physically pull people apart. I can offer them masks. Beyond that, I can’t be the social distancing police.”

On Thursday, the restaurant shared the news on social media that they would be "temporarily closed for business."

"We had multiple violations for over crowding on our sidewalk and street cafe that the city granted as a lifeline to help save local restaurants," the bar wrote. "We are the first to admit we were overwhelmed with the demand and weren’t prepared with the staff to deal with the over crowding."

While the establishment said they "attempted to adapt" there was "no perfect way to deal with hundreds of people showing up out of the blue."

Adding, "We did our best and continued to try and work towards what was asked of us. We love this neighborhood and hope that our beloved landmark Tavern will be open to serve you again one day, hopefully soon. "

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