Another New York business is accusing Governor Andrew Cuomo of suspending their liquor license without justification.
The Timberlodge at the Arrowhead Golf Club in Akron, New York has a capacity of up to 300 people in the warmer months, and has operated as a restaurant in accordance with state social distancing guidelines. Owners Lucas James and Clinton Holcomb had been told by the state that the 50 percent capacity rule for the Timberlodge, when used as a restaurant, would also apply when it would be used as a banquet hall for weddings and receptions.
In an email provided to PJ Media dated Wednesday, July 8, 2020, the Erie County Department of Health indicated that guidance from Albany was that “banquet facilities can operate under the restaurant guidelines,” of operating at 50 percent capacity “regardless if they produce food on the site.”
“They can have weddings as long as they adhere to the [sic] all of the social distancing guidelines,” the email continued. “The facilities can have more than 50 people as long as the [sic] remain at less than 50% of their space capacity and meet social distancing requirements for tables, chairs, etc.”
But, soon after receiving this guidance, the state told them that they had to limit receptions to 50 people in order to comply with Cuomo’s mandate—which treated religious ceremonies differently from public gatherings at restaurants or graduations, or even BLM protests. Suddenly, couples planning to have their weddings at the Timberlodge would have to cut their guest lists down significantly.
“How are we 50 percent for a bunch of strangers, and then 50 people for a bunch of people that are one or two degrees of separation?” asked Holcomb. “They said that is what we are being told.”
“The fact that on a Wednesday or Thursday we could have 200 plus people here sitting in and eating at a restaurant and that’s completely allowed by law, but then the very next day on a Friday, we can’t have any more than 50 people. If that doesn’t scream unequal treatment, I don’t know what does,” Lucas James told 7 Eyewitness News in Buffalo.
It was tough on their business, but even tougher on the couples who planned to have their wedding receptions there. “I personally had to call couples and tell them–and ask them–to lower their guest count to accommodate the state rules,” said James.
James and Holcomb encouraged two couples to challenge the mandate in federal court and they would cover most of the legal costs. “One hundred-fifty people in your family getting an invitation, and then the 100 that are the least important, I suppose, get uninvited to the event. What does that do to a family?”
Two couples sued the state, and James and Holcomb helped cover most of the legal costs. They got their day in court, however, the owners’ involvement in the lawsuit clearly didn’t go unnoticed as less than 12 hours before the oral arguments were heard, Arrowhead found out that their liquor license was suspended.
“On Thursday morning, August 6th they had an emergency meeting about what to do with regards to Arrowhead. They decided the best thing they could do would be to pull our liquor license. We found that out Thursday evening which was obviously kind of shocking to us given that they knew that we had our oral arguments in front of a federal judge literally the next morning,” Holcomb said.
To the knowledge of the owners, Arrowhead Golf Club had never been visited by the State Liquor Authority prior to their license being suspended. On July 14, the SLA did speak to Holcomb and told him not to hold events with more than 50 people. He asked them to review their COVID-19 safety plan, and he sent it to them that day, but never heard back.
“Not having a liquor license will devastate our business in very little time,” Lucas James told PJ Media. “The word is already out, our restaurant is suffering. Our golf every day is now suffering. This will put us out of businesses if we don’t get it back soon.”
On August 10, a federal judge in Syracuse, New York tossed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 50-person limit on crowd sizes at weddings. The ruling came as a victory to the couples, but Arrowhead’s license being suspended will ultimately hurt their wedding reception business.
“We have countless engaged couples that will (and already have) canceled their weddings at our facility because they heard our liquor license was taken,” said James, who believes the Arrowhead Golf Club was targeted because of their role in the lawsuit.
“The timing of events indicate we were directly targeted by Cuomo after we sued the state on behalf of several of our couples,” he said.
James and Holcomb have engaged their attorneys in order to get their liquor license back.
This is not the first time that Governor Cuomo has been accused of targeting businesses out of vengeance.
Abby Ehmann, the owner of East Village dive bar Lucky, found out her liquor license was suspended a week after starting a petition calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to reverse New York’s mandate requiring that a substantial amount of food must be served with any alcohol purchase.
“I exercised my First Amendment right by petitioning my government for a redress of grievances,” Ehmann said. “I believe that this same government has selectively enforced the law I’m working to change as retaliation.”
Last month, The Village Line in Kenmore, New York, mocked Governor Cuomo’s mandates with a satirical menu called “NYS Safe Menu” that spelled out an obscenity and Cuomo’s name in its list of food offerings to comply with the mandate. The menu went viral and the bar’s liquor license was suspended over social distancing violations the bar says never happened.
The managers at The Village Line say they were targeted because of their satirical menu. “Cuomo and his administration undoubtedly targeted The Village Line, with the goal of intimidating business owners and individuals with a clear, explicit threat: comply with the Governor’s orders and virtue-signaling, or risk losing your economic livelihood,” Chris Gardella, the owner of The Village Line, told PJ Media.
Governor Cuomo recently announced that he has a book coming out in October touting his “leadership” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Somehow, I doubt it will mention his mafia tactics.
Matt Margolis is the author of Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis