The 10 PM Curfew For NYC Bars And Private Gathering Limits

Ready for another nail in the coffin for nightlife in NYC?

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced on Twitter that a 10 PM curfew will go into effect on November 13th for any establishments with a liquor license. That means bars, restaurants, lounges, or nightclubs that serve alcohol must have last call and close by 10 PM!

Oh, and if the lines weren’t already long enough, that curfew includes gyms.

This deserves some discussion. So, in this article we’ll discuss why this happened, what it means for private gatherings, and address some important questions and concerns around this important topic.

The Cause For the New Curfew

This new curfew is in response to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in NYC. And it effectively rolls back both the 12am indoor dining curfew and 11 pm outdoor dining curfew that New Yorkers enjoyed after entering Phase 4 of reopening.

Below you will find a data chart showing the rise in daily cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19.

Daily Cases Hospitalizations and Deaths from COVID-19 11-11-20 Causing The NYC 10PM Curfew
Data from NYC.GOV

As usual, nightlife took the blame as the cause of this trend, and is essentially being shut down for it.

Limits on Indoor Gatherings at Private Residences

But wait, there’s more! The big kick in the pants accompanied this notice when Governor Cuomo also announced to limit indoor gatherings at private residences to 10 people. While indoor dining limits remain at 25% of capacity or bars and restaurants.

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Likely, this is an effort to get ahead of the rising concerns around underground parties.

Rights, Inequity, and Frequently Asked Questions

Surely, many of us are curious to see how these restrictions on private gathers will be pulled off without undermining people’s rights. You know, like that pesky Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guarding against “unreasonable” searches! This naturally raises a few questions and concerns about enforcement, rights, and inequity.

Can officers inspect your home if they suspect that you’re violating private gathering limits?

Police will surely attempt to inspect your premises if they believe that you are having a large private gathering, or if someone submits a social distancing violation complaint. But if police ever come knocking, generally, you always want to ask for them to produce a search warrant and never freely give consent for police to enter without one. If you find yourself in this situation, it would be a good time to contact a lawyer.

Can you be prosecuted or arrested for having a family gathering with over 10 people in your private residence? What does that mean for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas Eve?

There has been no indication that private parties and family gatherings are treated differently. So if your family’s holiday dinner has more than 10 people then it is in violation of the private gathering limit. This is a gray area that is left to the police on site to determine how to handle. But both politicians and sheriffs have already stated publicly that it is “unenforceable” and “unconstitutional.”

According to my fellow nightlife professionals, when parties were broken up, both organizers and promoters have been subject to fines. In some extreme instances, organizers were arrested and released shortly after with a summons. Guests were only required to evacuate and leave the scene.

What is the fine if you get caught for organizing a large private gathering?

If you are caught hosting an illegal gathering, you may be in violation of New York Regulation Code “Title: Section 66-3.3 – Non-essential gatherings.” For large gatherings, organizers have been subject to $500 – $1,000 fines, and the news has reported up to $15,000 for mass gatherings and further citations for any other violations that police can identify.

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Fines for selling liquor without a license stack on top of this, and any liquor and/or party equipment on the premises could be confiscated.

Governor Cuomo also announced the state is increasing the maximum fine for violations of the state’s social distancing protocol from $500 to $1,000 to help address the lack of adherence to social distancing protocols.

NY.gov

How will the government enforce private gathering limitations in a way that doesn’t discriminate?

The likelihood of wealthy constituents in prominent neighborhoods being confronted by law enforcement is lower than people in poor communities. So you can expect for these laws to impact minorities the most. If everyone was treated equally in this country, then the “Black Lives Matter” movement wouldn’t have happened.

These restrictions tread on thin ice. Taking away people’s rights to be with close friends and family removes one of the few social joys that we have remaining.

And with so many people already abandoning NYC, this is yet another reason to re-evaluate staying.

Impacts of The Curfew on Upcoming Holidays and Virtual Events

If there was still any hope for watching the ball drop in Times Square, this new curfew put an end to that. If things don’t get any better over the next month or two, bars or clubs have no hope for the crowds or big profits that come with end of year New Year’s Eve parties when the last call is 10pm!

So you can expect for holiday events to either be cancelled or go virtual. This looks to be the way that many organizers are already moving towards.

Will Heavier Regulations On Nightlife Have A Paradoxical Effect?

I dare say that shutting down establishments where health and safety precautions are prioritized, since they have a lot to lose (e.g. their liquor licenses), will likely have the opposite of the intended effect. These heavier restrictions on nightlife limit the safer options and may only serve to redirect anxious people to unsafe alternatives that don’t enforce essential precautions during this pandemic.

Consider what happened during the prohibition of the 1920s, which gave birth to the mafia. Have we learned nothing from history?

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Underground parties continue to flourish under these restrictions. They still popped up on Halloween night and New Year’s Eve despite the curfews, city police task forces roaming the streets, law enforcement making fake profiles on social media, and busting party organizers for violations!

Stopping people from going to places that follow CDC guidelines won’t make them not want to socialize. Furthermore, curfews will cause struggling businesses to lose more revenue during traditionally celebratory holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.

Yes, we must do what we can do to slow down the pandemic. But we should always consider if those steps are truly effective or creating new problems.

The only silver lining we have is that there are plenty of vaccine candidates from Pfizer and other companies on the horizon.

So lets cheers to a better 2021 and get this year over with. 2020 has been a big disappointment on so many levels.

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