NY Liquor Authority cracks down on ticketed live music events at bars, restaurants

The New York State Liquor Authority is cracking down on bars and restaurants holding ticketed live music events — which it claims has been barred since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis — after it saw a recent increase in establishments advertising for them.

This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SLA posted online its sharpened guidance on the matter, saying that “only incidental music” or music that is not the main attraction at an establishment “is permissible at this time.”

“This means that advertised and/or ticketed shows are not permissible,” the guidance says. “Music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself.”

The edict was posted in a Q&A section on the SLA’s website under the question: “Can I have live entertainment or a DJ in my indoor or outdoor dining area.”

If bars or restaurants have live music that merely “complements” dining, social-distancing practices must be adhered to, along with the wearing of face masks, and performers should be at least 12 feet from patrons, according to the SLA.

“All other forms of live entertainment, such as exotic dancing, comedy shows, karaoke etc., are not permissible currently regardless of phase,” the guidance says.

The newly clarified guidance was a blow to some cash-strapped New York business owners who have since reopened their establishments from their coronavirus-induced closures and were planning to host ticketed shows for diners.

“It’s shutting us down and it’s just especially hard right now as all of us are already in a tenuous situation as it is,” Julie Leone, the owner of The 443 Social Club & Lounge in Syracuse, told The Post.

Leone said the lounge, which serves food, reopened on Aug. 1 and held one live music show that week and two in the next week since she thought it was permitted with socially distant patrons seated inside the venue.

“I was surprised,” said Leone in describing her reaction when she found out the events were not allowed by the state.

“We’re small and we’re seated. We’re not a rowdy bar band venue. We are a listening-room-style venue. Music is not background in our business. There’s no chatter, patrons are focused on what’s playing. They’re seated like in a restaurant.”

Leone says she has now cancelled any upcoming shows and is refunding tickets.

“The SLA has actually been making really regular changes” regarding the reopening rules, said Leone, adding, “You’re not normally in the habit of checking their website, but during COVID it’s been fast and furious.”

SLA spokesman William Crowley insisted Thursday that the guidance in question “is not new.”

Crowley says “live entertainment activities, including all ticketed events, have been prohibited since New York went on PAUSE in mid-March to stop the spread of coronavirus.”

“This week, after seeing an increase in establishments advertising ticketed events, the SLA clarified language on its website and proactively emailed all bars and restaurants to ensure they were aware of the months-old restrictions,” Crowley said.

Crowley added, “New Yorkers need to remember we are still fighting a global pandemic — and with dozens of states facing outbreaks, we must continue to take the threat of spreading COVID at mass gatherings seriously.”


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