Utica banquet hall cited by SLA

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A Utica banquet hall is among 21 establishments whose liquor licenses were suspended in enforcement of COVID-19 rules, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday. The new suspensions bring the number of liquor licenses suspended during the coronavirus pandemic to 238, with 1,362 charges overall filed related to COVID-19 rules. Violations can result in fines of up to $10,000 each.

The Utica establishment was named as Breeze’s Banquet & Event Center at 215 Leland Ave. According to Cuomo’s office, State Liquor Authority investigators, acting on reports from the Oneida County Health Department and a complaint from a guest at a wedding, learned that the venue hosted a wedding Sept. 4 with approximately 160 guests. Tables were spaced less than 6 feet, apartment guests mingled and ordered drinks directly from the bar in violation of state orders, and failed to observe social distancing.

In addition, some 50 guests were dancing, most without facial coverings, and a DJ made an announcement asking guests to not post pictures on social media for fear they would be cited by authorities.

The licensee had been warned on two separate previous occasions, including the day before the event, and the venue told the Liquor Authority it had not been holding weddings and would not have one Sept. 4.

The licensees receiving emergency orders of suspension are in New York City, the Finger Lakes, Long Island, Mid-Hudson region, North Country and Mohawk Valley. “Rules are only as good as enforcement, and as we have ramped up checks on bars and restaurants, compliance has increased, creating a safer environment for everyone,” Cuomo said in a statement released Friday. “A small number of business owners still don’t think the rules apply to them -- even in focus zones where the state has tracked increased spread -- and these suspensions should serve as a reminder that we will take action against those who callously put New Yorkers in harm’s way.”

Among other cases the Liquor authority cited, a Queens lounge had 100 patrons inside, some singing karaoke, while a Queens venue had nearly 300 patrons, six times the number currently allowed at events.A Watertown tavern that was the site of video circulated on social media and local news was found with 70 patrons, double the allowed number, and spilling outside, many shoulder-to-shoulder, and at least two New York City establishments covered their windows or left their lights off to disguise activity inside.

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