State: Watertown bar’s liquor license suspended ’to protect public health and safety’

State: Watertown bar’s liquor license suspended ’to protect public health and safety’
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. (Source: WWNY)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Social distancing at Watertown’s Hitchin' Post Tavern was “impossible” and facemasks were “optional.” That’s according to the New York State Liquor Authority.

The SLA ordered an emergency suspension of the Court Street bar’s liquor license as a result.

Video from inside the bar made its way around on social media and eventually to Jefferson County officials, who had the Watertown Police Department start an investigation.

According to the SLA, officers went to the tavern on September 27 and found more than 70 patrons inside. That’s double the maximum occupancy under COVID-19 regulations, the SLA said.

Police also told the state that patrons were standing shoulder to shoulder, most without facial coverings.

“The SLA ordered an emergency suspension for the Hitchin' Post Tavern following reports from the Watertown Police depicting a bar where facemasks were optional and patrons were packed so close together that social distancing was impossible,” said State Liquor Authority spokesman William Crowley. “Supervision at this establishment was nonexistent, and their license was suspended to protect public health and safety. We are still fighting a global pandemic, and the SLA will continue to hold those who put their employees, patrons and communities at risk accountable for their actions.”

The SLA says any suspended license takes effect immediately and remains in place indefinitely.

Licensees will get a prompt hearing before an SLA administrative judge and ultimately may result in the business owner paying a fine before the liquor license is returned.

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