West New York and Jersey City Bars to be Suspended for Violating COVID Rules

TRENTON – Continuing efforts to deter the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) has issued charges seeking to suspend the liquor licenses of 12 New Jersey bars and restaurants for violating executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each establishment faces a minimum 10-day suspension for violating heightened restrictions placed on eating and drinking establishments by Governor Murphy last month and/or prior executive orders aimed at preventing the transmission of COVID-19.

“As we’ve said before:  we take no pleasure in undertaking these actions, but we’re in the midst of a pandemic and we need everyone in the state to do their part to combat a surge in COVID-19, said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “We will not allow a small percentage of bars and restaurants that disregard mitigation measures to jeopardize public health, and our message is especially important as we head into the New Year’s holiday.”

“The actions announced today demonstrate ABC’s continued commitment to ensuring that all of our licensees are operating in compliance with the Governor’s COVID-19 orders in place to reduce the risk of viral spread,” said James B. Graziano, Director of the Division Alcoholic Beverage Control. “Our enforcement actions are necessary to protect the health and well-being of all New Jerseyans and violators face significant consequences.”

Last month, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 194 (2020) (“EO 194”), which, among other things, imposes a 10 p.m. curfew on all indoor food and drink services in the State and prohibits patrons from being seated at an indoor bar at all times. The restrictions were imposed by Governor Murphy in an effort to reduce the sustained close contact that results from patrons seated at indoor bar areas.

The charges announced today stem from violations of EO 194 and/or prior executive orders requiring establishments to limit the number of patrons allowed in indoor areas to 25 percent of the establishment’s indoor capacity; enforce face covering requirements for patrons and employees; prohibit the consumption of food and alcohol by patrons who are not seated at a table; maintain a six-foot minimum distance between dining tables; limit the number of patrons at a table to eight; and enforce social distancing among employees and patrons. During the course of ABC’s compliance checks, some establishments were also charged with ABC violations not related to COVID-19 orders.

Charges have been issued against the entities holding liquor licenses for the following establishments:

  • Sarina’s Bar, Clifton. Cited for allowing patrons to consume alcohol while standing in a bar area; violating face-covering requirements; and for exceeding occupancy limits. Penalty sought: 25-day suspension.
  • Bar El Anochecer, Passaic. Cited for allowing patrons to be served while standing in a bar area, seated at a bar, and/or and not seated at a table; and for failing to enforce social distancing. Penalty sought: 20-day suspension.
  • Sports Bar Inn, Passaic. Cited for allowing patrons to be served while standing in a bar area, seated at a bar, and/or and not seated at a table; and for failing to enforce social distancing. Penalty sought:  20-day suspension.
  • Six26, Jersey City. Cited for violating 10 p.m. curfew and face-cover requirements; and for exceeding limit on number of patrons seated at a table. Also cited for hindering an investigation and allowing smoking indoors. Penalty sought: 85-day suspension.
  • La Rumba Paisa Tavern, West New York. Cited for allowing patrons to consume alcohol while standing in a bar area. Penalty sought: 10-day suspension.
  • Vintage Wines and Bacchus Bar, Old Bridge. Cited for allowing patrons to be served while sitting at a bar; and for violating face-covering requirements. Penalty sought: 15-day suspension.
  • Fat Cactus Cantina, New Brunswick. Cited for exceeding occupancy limits. Penalty sought: 10-day suspension.
  • El Tanampa, South River. Cited for allowing patrons to be served while sitting at a bar; and for violating face-covering requirements. Penalty sought: 15-day suspension.
  • Ria Mar Bar and Restaurant, South River. Cited for allowing patrons to be served while sitting at a bar; and for violating face-covering requirements. Penalty sought: 15-day suspension.
  • Donovans Restaurant, Manchester. Cited for allowing patrons to be served while sitting at a bar; violating face-covering requirements; and for failing to maintain a six-foot distance between tables. Penalty sought: 25-day suspension.
  • Bayers Tavern, Gloucester City. Cited for allowing patrons to be served while sitting at a bar. Penalty sought: 10-day suspension.
  • Flip Flopz, North Wildwood. Cited for failing to enforce social distancing on two separate occasions; and for violating face-covering requirements. Also cited for failing to keep an employee list on licensed premises. Penalty sought: 66-day suspension.

Since March, ABC has initiated enforcement actions against more than 200 establishments in response to COVID-19-related violations by licensees. Those actions have delivered warnings, and sought fines, license suspensions, and license revocations.

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