Caught on camera: officials say video shows Watertown tavern broke COVID-related rules

WWNY Caught on camera: officials say video shows Watertown tavern broke COVID-related rules

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - A night out at a Watertown bar has drawn the attention of Jefferson County, the city of Watertown, and the New York State Liquor Authority.

In early September, local officials say a cell phone inside Watertown’s Hitchin' Post Tavern captured video of what they say goes against every rule and regulation put in place to protect people from COVID-19 in bars.

The video shows a crowd of people close together and almost no one is wearing masks.

“When you first saw it, it takes you back and you say, ‘Oh.’ You just say ‘Oh, my,’” said Jefferson County Legislature Chair Scott Gray.

The video circulated on social media before making its way to county and city officials, who say the Watertown police and the state Liquor Authority are involved.

Gray says the incident at the Hitchin' Post is not acceptable.

“Congratulations, their business is doing well, but in this situation that we are in, there’s public safety and public health measures that have to be followed to ensure that the community at large, not just the patrons of that bar, but the community at large is guarded and protected against that,” he said.

So far, no action has been taken against the tavern, but the state has fined or revoked the liquor licenses of many other bars that do not follow COVID rules.

The manager of the Hitchin' Post Tavern would not comment on camera, but tells us police have visited the bar on at least one occasion and that the bar did voluntarily close following that visit.

The manager also confirms that he’s been in contact with the state Liquor Authority.

“The SLA is taking these situations very seriously,” said Gray.

We reached out to the state Liquor Authority to see where this stands in Albany.

In an email, a spokesperson wrote, “The SLA received a referral on September 29th from the Watertown Police Department detailing social distancing violations at the Hitchin' Post. This incident is currently being reviewed by SLA Counsel’s Office and this matter will be addressed promptly.”

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