On Sunday, Daniel Presti, who as the manager of Staten Island bar Mac’s Public House has publicly resisted the state’s tightening COVID restrictions, hit a sheriff’s deputy with his car as he attempted to flee arrest, according to the New York Times. Presti now faces ten charges, including assault with intent to cause injury to an officer, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, and reckless driving. He was released on his own recognizance and has a hearing scheduled for January.
Mac’s Public House has become a flashpoint in the culture war over COVID and a talking point in conversations about government restrictions on how businesses can operate as cases surge. In recent weeks, other establishments in North America have resisted indoor dining shutdowns (as in California) and pulled similar publicity-seeking acts of defiance, including Adamson’s Barbecue in Toronto. There, owner Adam Skelly opened one of his three locations for indoor dining after the provincial government in Ontario ordered a shutdown. The opening attracted supporters and protestors, among them an unsavory cast of characters including white nationalist Paul Fromm.
Last week at Mac’s, which had its liquor license suspended for continuing to serve people indoors, Presti was arrested and hundreds of people gathered outside the bar. The Proud Boys, a far-right group, claimed to be in attendance. The bar reopened on Saturday and sheriff’s deputies say they saw Presti serving people in exchange for a “donation.” While, the Times reports, Presti’s lawyers Louis Gelormino and Mark Fonte say in a written statement that Presti did not know who had approached him in the dark, city sheriff Joseph Fucito tells the paper the statement is “not supported by facts.”
Huffington Post Canada called the Adamson Barbecue fiasco “white privilege in action.” Toronto police initially didn’t take any action, and Skelly sold out of food and opened for indoor dining for three days before he was arrested and charged. On a GoFundMe page started to support him, Skelly wrote that he found out about the crowdfunding while in custody and that “the officers were updating me through the night. I could feel the love from the cell.”
Similar criticisms were raised about the treatment of Presti including from New York City Councilman Brad Ladner, who said to the Times, “what happens for white people accused of offenses and what happens for Black and brown people accused of offenses is profoundly different,” he said.
As the Times notes, the part of Staten Island where Mac’s is located had a seven-day average positivity rate of 7.58 percent as of Saturday. The entire borough is currently subject to stricter restrictions, with the southern part of the borough subject to orange zone restrictions and the northern part a yellow buffer zone.