Friday night, on the 19th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, Joyce's Tavern on Staten Island held a fundraiser for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a charity that honors 9/11 victims.
The event drew crowds to the restaurant's back patio. It also drew inspectors from the State Liquor Authority (SLA).
Cynthia Torchio has frequented the bar.
“They were trying to do a good thing for a fundraiser for 9/11 and it got shut down,” she said. “I mean, I understand social distancing and you, we do have to follow protocol ‘cause it is a bad thing, but I don’t think it was that bad.”
Owners of the restaurant told NY1 off camera that a party of eight—including a pregnant woman—had waited 45 minutes to sit outside when a bartender offered them an indoor table to wait.
An SLA inspector showed up and began asking questions.
The inspector later testified at a special SLA hearing that some people at the table appeared to be drinking a beverage.
And another woman at a different table was eating, and drinking a glass of wine.
Both were written up as violations of the ban on indoor drinking and dining, a prohibition intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
One of the taverns co-owners told NY1 the woman drinking the wine was another co-owner, who was on a break and that the party of eight, including the pregnant woman, were only sipping water.
“You wanna give them a warning, that’s fine,” said one patron. “But to have them lose their liquor license, that they’ve been here so long and they do so much for the community."
Joyce's Tavern is one of two plaintiffs representing restaurants in court challenging the the limits on indoor dining set by Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio.
Councilman Joe Borelli told NY1 that made Joyce's a target.
"I don’t think it was a coincidence that the SLA decided this is the place we’re going to go and bust chops,” Borelli said.
The SLA called the accusations baseless, saying it conducted more than 1,300 restaurant inspections in the city and on Long Island that day, and just four were noncompliant.
Joyce's can appeal, or settle by paying a hefty fine.
A Go Fund Me page has already raised more than $40,000 to help Joyce's get its license back.
Owners at Joyce’s said that, since their brush up with the Liquor Authority, they’ve decided to forgo outdoor dining and offer only pick up and delivery, at least until this mess is sorted out.