You are reading

Ramos Says SLA is Slamming Restaurants With ‘Exorbitant Fines’ And it Needs to Stop

State Sen. Jessica Ramos joined the New York State Latino Restaurant, Bar and Lounge Association Thursday to call on the SLA to remedy the “excessive” fines issued to small businesses (Twitter /@jessicaramos)

Aug. 27, 2020 By Allie Griffin

State Sen. Jessica Ramos penned a letter to the State Liquor Authority (SLA) Wednesday calling on the agency to stop hitting small restaurant owners with hefty fines.

The lawmaker claims that the agency’s fines and “harassment tactics” are unfair, and come at a time when many business owners are struggling to stay afloat.

Ramos, along with two dozen other state senators, are calling on the SLA to immediately halt its “harsh punishment” against local restaurants and bars who need all the help they can get.

The agency has been tasked with enforcing the governor’s COVID-19 regulations to control the spread of the virus and keep New Yorkers safe. The political leaders argue that the agency has adopted a draconian approach that has been hurting restaurants and bars.

The SLA has issued nearly 900 violations to businesses across the state and suspended 162 liquor licenses, according to the latest SLA report. Fifty-one establishments in Queens have seen their liquor licenses yanked — more than any other borough or county in the state.

Businesses found in violation of COVID-19 regulations face fines of up to $10,000 per violation, while egregious violations can result in the immediate suspension of a bar or restaurant’s liquor license.

The senators said the “exorbitant fines” are putting small business owners further in debt after they have struggled financially for months amid the coronavirus shutdowns.

“Strict enforcement guidelines and high fines are destroying businesses’ chance to survive the economic catastrophe brought by the pandemic,” Ramos and her colleagues wrote.

However, the SLA maintains that it regularly reduces fines when business owners agree to corrective action plans that protect the public health.

The senators also allege that the SLA’s task force has used harassment tactics against small businesses. Ramos wrote that she and her fellow senators have heard of such instances in which SLA investigators used sirens and megaphones to taunt owners with the threat of closure during business hours.

The SLA said that its employees don’t use megaphones, but members of the NYPD or Sheriff’s Office may have.

Still, the lawmakers want to see the agency do better.

“We are publicly calling on you to lower the excessive fines, create a clear and transparent policy for restaurants to come into compliance, and end the blatant harassment that has been leveraged against small businesses across the state,” they wrote.

They also said that the state and city guidance for restaurants and outdoor dining has repeatedly changed — often with warning.

“After the March order to stop serving patrons, conflicting and disingenuous guidance has been given to restaurant owners who are attempting to reopen and stay open safely,” the senators said in the letter. “The Mayor and Governor have changed requirements and expanded enforcement capabilities without properly informing the public or providing them with due process.”

They said the administration must teach businesses and issue the guidance in multiple languages before punishing them. They added that business owners also deserve a right to a hearing and due process before they are fined.

Other Queens senators who signed the letter include Senators Joseph Addabbo, Leroy Comrie, John Liu and Toby Ann Stavisky.

“We are calling on the SLA to take immediate action to remedy their harsh punishment against small businesses when they need our support most,” the 25 senators wrote.

A spokesperson for the agency said their letter is “simply misinformed.”

“The SLA has had uniform standards for bars and restaurants from day one — posted publicly on our website — and I’d encourage these senators to actually read them before writing a politically-motivated missive,” the spokesperson said.

“These rules have been on the books for months, and enforcement is our last option to protect New Yorkers after continued non-compliance.”

email the author: [email protected]

2 Comments

Click for Comments 
PJ Field

Elected officials from Queens should know better than anyone what Covid 19 can do to a community and should appreciate and support the restrictions the state has put in place that have reduced the transmission rate from the highest in the nation to less than 1%. Instead, you support businesses that flout the law and endanger our lives. It is well-established that indoor dining is a high-risk activity. You should be strongly encouraging compliance with the law for the safety of your constituents. The rules are simple, easily accessible online, have been in place for months and have been widely publicized. It is simply disingenuous to suggest business owners are confused or lack information about them.

Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Queens Public Library celebrates Black History Month with nearly 150 programs highlighting Black resistance, culture

Feb. 2, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed

Throughout February, Queens Public Library will celebrate “Black Resistance” – the theme of its 2023 Black History Month observance – with nearly 150 comprehensive programs and initiatives, including theater performances, author talks, and art workshops for all ages, spotlighting various aspects of Black heritage, culture and resilience. 

Popular places where you can watch the Big Game in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘Limitless possibility’: BP Richards announces community visioning workshops on redevelopment of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus in Queens Village

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. and Empire State Development on Tuesday, Jan. 31, announced the launch of a series of community visioning workshops that will be held to hear input from eastern Queens residents about the redevelopment of the 50-acre Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus in Queens Village. 

The first community visioning workshop will be held on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. at P.S./I.S. 208 located at 74-30 Commonwealth Blvd. in Glen Oaks.

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.