April 6, 2021 By Christina Santucci
An Astoria tavern – that was closed for two weeks for violating pandemic restrictions – has reopened.
Rocky McBride’s, located at 27-01 23rd Ave., resumed service Saturday after paying $25,000 as part of a conditional no contest offer to the State Liquor Authority (SLA).
Members of the SLA had set that amount during a meeting Wednesday – about two weeks after the bar’s liquor license was suspended.
During the meeting, SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley noted a letter had been submitted by a lawyer on behalf of the bar’s owners that addressed violations found during three visits from investigators.
The bar’s license was suspended following a St. Patrick’s Day visit, when at least 20 mostly maskless people were seen by investigators standing outside of the tavern. Investigators also spotted staff wearing masks improperly as well as a musician was performing. Under its license, Rocky McBride’s is not permitted to have live bands.
Martin P. Mehler, an attorney for Rocky McBride’s, addressed some of the most recent issues in a letter to the SLA.
“The entire [St. Patrick’s Day] ‘performance,’ which took place outdoors, lasted no more than 10 minutes. The licensee does not have ‘live bands’ and did not think that two people dressed in ‘traditional garb’ to honor the holiday was any violation,” Mehler wrote.
Later in his letter, Mehler noted that the staff member appeared to be adjusting her face mask in a photo taken that day. “Her nose was exposed but the photo seems to indicate she was pulling it back up.”
Mehler also wrote that, “The licensee deeply regrets that any transgression took place and will not allow a repeat of the activity to occur.”
Initially, two of the three SLA members said they were willing to accept a conditional no contest offer of $15,000, but Bradley said he thought the amount should be increased by $10,000–based on negative feedback from residents.
“I still was interested in giving them the benefit of the doubt until I then saw letters and pictures coming from the Citizens of Astoria – that backed up every one of their complaints,” Bradley said.
Those submissions argued that Rocky McBride’s had “destroyed the area with their non-compliance in regard to COVID restrictions, reckless behavior and allowance of their customers to party in the street.”
After Bradley spoke, the other two members agreed to the higher amount, with fellow SLA Commissioner Greeley Ford noting he had also found material provided by the group of Astoria residents to be “pretty harsh.”
It was not immediately clear who had submitted the letter from the “Citizens of Astoria” – asking that Rocky McBride’s be shut down.
But Mehler wrote that he believed the group consisted of one Astoria resident and called their complaints “meritless accusations.”