Ronny Vargas and Alex Suazo thought that they were complying with all of Governor Cuomo’s pandemic protocols when their party boat, Liberty Belle, left the dock on an early August evening. Their 12-page social distancing plan had been approved by the city agency DockNYC, a police officer inspected the boat before launch, all passengers wore masks while boarding, and they had only 170 guests aboard for a private birthday party – approximately 25 percent of the boat’s capacity.
New Yorkers who spotted the boat cruising along the East River were not impressed, however. They complained to the authorities, and Vargas and Suazo were greeted by the Sheriff’s Office when they returned to Pier 36 at 11:30 p.m.
Now, they have come under fire from Governor Cuomo, who called their behavior illegal and a violation of both public health and common decency.
City officials claim that passengers were not wearing masks when they returned to the dock and that there was evidence that the indoor bar was being used. The owners claim that the bar was simply being used for grab and go service, the same as how many restaurants are operating. Nevertheless, they received five violations from the Sheriff’s Office. One violation was for serving alcohol when their liquor license had expired the day prior (they had applied for a new license back in June) and one was for violating social distancing protocols.
However, it was not until August 5, four days after the citations were issued, that the State Liquor Authority clarified that the state’s 50-person cap on gatherings should also apply to boats. When Liberty Belle set sail, no such guidelines were in place.
The state has decided to deny Liberty Belle’s liquor license renewal as they do not believe the business will protect public health. You can read more in this New York Post article.