An iconic New York City bar once frequented by celebrities like Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Jack Kerouac is temporarily closed for business.
White Horse Tavern, in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood, announced Wednesday the New York State Liquor Authority suspended its license until further notice after receiving multiple violations for customers overcrowding in the bar’s street cafe space.
"We were overwhelmed with the demand," Eytan Sugarman, owner of White Horse Tavern, told FOX Business. "We weren't used to this way of doing business. We're an indoor, neighborhood bar. We had to adapt our business model to survive."
This place is a landmark and it's truly in danger of going out of business
New York SLA sent an undercover investigator to the White Horse Taven on June 14 and said they were able to buy alcohol without the purchase of food, which violates Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order that allows customers to purchase alcoholic drinks to-go during the coronavirus pandemic. Weeks later, the SLA charged the bar with three violations when members of the New York state task force observed 67 customers drinking alcohol in front of the premises, according to the SLA. The NYPD received calls about customers violating social distancing at the bar when outdoor dining began, according to the SLA.
Sugarman says he hired more staff to help implement social-distancing orders and paid out of pocket for face masks for customers and signs informing patrons of the social-distancing policy. The owner says he personally went up and down the block asking people to clear the sidewalk to make room for a walkway, but that customers ultimately didn’t listen.
"They want me to police people's behavior. I'm not saying we should be above the law, but I didn't get an opportunity to correct them [the violations]. They don't realize what it is to take away our ability to do business. This place is a landmark and it's truly in danger of going out of business," Sugarman said.
Sugarman estimates the bar has lost half a million dollars in revenue for the three months it was closed since March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
With indoor dining suspended indefinitely in New York City, a number of bars and restaurants in Manhattan neighborhoods like the West Village, Upper East Side and Astoria have received the most complaints about violating social distancing orders outside. More than 2,400 complaints were filed from instances in those areas in six days between June 11 and June 20, the New York Post reported, citing data from the New York City Department of Information Technology. The complaints prompted New York Gov. Cuomo to reprimand business owners and patrons for defying safety measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.
Sugarman posted a letter to the White Horse Tavern's Instagram page Wednesday, explaining the challenges the business has faced trying to stay open during the pandemic and control the crowds of people flocking to the bar.
“I hope people realize that this new way of doing business was thrust upon us. There is no perfect way to deal with hundreds of people showing up out of the blue. We did our best and continued to try and work towards what was asked of us," it said.
White Horse Tavern opened in 1880 and bills itself as the second-oldest bar in New York City. Sugarman, a restaurateur who also owns swanky Midtown steakhouse Hunt & Fish Club and once had a joint venture with Justin Timberlake’s barbecue restaurant, took over White Horse Tavern last year.