As news of positive strides toward a coronavirus vaccine was announced and with the COVID-19 infection rate in Suffolk County rising to 3.8% in Sunday’s test results, with 324 new confirmed cases, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Monday that New York State has summarily suspended the liquor license for the North Fork Country Club on Long Island following a wedding at the venue last month which violated pandemic-related gathering restrictions and turned into a super-spreader event. The wedding was attended by 113 guests— more than double the number allowed under the Governor’s Executive Orders—and led to at least 34 COVID-19 infections. As a result, 159 individuals were quarantined and several schools were temporarily closed to in-person learning.
“As we have seen in weddings and similar events across the country during this pandemic, large gatherings can easily be super-spreader events, too often with dire consequences. Hosting one of these events after all New York has been through is obnoxious and irresponsible – not to mention illegal,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are eight months into this pandemic and simply will not tolerate businesses that put New Yorkers at risk. Those who continue to ignore the rules will lose their ability to serve alcohol, and I thank Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and his team for their cooperation in holding these bad actors accountable.”
According to the Suffolk County Department of Health, the North Fork Country Club, located in Cutchogue on Long Island, hosted a wedding on October 17 that was attended by 113 individuals, flagrantly violating the state’s 50-person limit on non-essential gatherings and dramatically increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Unfortunately, the event became a super-spreader event, with at least 34 individuals eventually testing positive for COVID-19 – including 30 guests, three members of the country club’s staff, and one wedding vendor. In addition, the event’s fallout created widespread impacts on the surrounding community, with 159 individuals who were potentially exposed having to quarantine and several schools temporarily suspending in-person learning.
After conducting an investigation, the Suffolk County Department of Health made a referral to the New York State Liquor Authority. On November 6, the SLA charged the North Fork Country Club with multiple counts of failure to comply with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders concerning COVID-19 restrictions and failure to exercise adequate supervision of their premises. The SLA also issued a summary suspension of the venue’s liquor license, preventing them from serving alcohol while the disciplinary violations are dealt with. The SLA issued the summary suspension because the board found emergency action was required to protect public health, safety, or welfare.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “This type of blatant disregard for the well-being of others is not only extremely disappointing, it will not be tolerated. Suffolk County took swift action to contain the community spread this wedding could have caused, and I commend Governor Cuomo for taking appropriate action. If you violate the rules, you will be caught and you will be held responsible.”
SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley said, “By now, every licensee should be well aware of the protocols in place to stop the spread and should know that an event like this is unacceptable. We are still in the midst of a public health crisis, and the SLA will continue to hold those who ignore these lifesaving rules accountable.”
The establishment’s summary suspension was ordered by SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley, Commissioner Lily Fan and Commissioner Greeley Ford at a special meeting of the Full Board, conducted via digitally recorded video conference call under social distancing guidelines on November 6. When the SLA summarily suspends a license, the action also serves a “Notice of Pleading,” alleging one or more disciplinary violations. The SLA’s decision to summarily suspend a license is not a final determination on the merits of the case and the licensee is entitled to an expedited administrative law hearing before an independent Administrative Law Judge. An order of summary suspension remains in effect until such time as it is modified by the SLA or a reviewing Court.