The manager of a Staten Island bar who has repeatedly and flamboyantly defied New York’s coronavirus restrictions hit a sheriff’s deputy with his Jeep early Sunday as he unsuccessfully tried to escape arrest, the sheriff’s office said.
The bar, Mac’s Public House, was ordered closed by the state on Wednesday, but deputies said they found several patrons being served there on Saturday night. When deputies confronted the manager, Daniel Presti, he fled to his Jeep and drove into one of the deputies, throwing him onto the hood, according to the sheriff’s office.
Mr. Presti, 34, faces 10 charges, including assault with intent to cause injury to an officer, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and resisting arrest, according to a criminal complaint filed on Sunday. He was released on his own recognizance and has a hearing scheduled for January, court records show.
Joseph Fucito, the city sheriff, said the deputy had been released from the hospital but sustained fractures in each of his shin bones.
It was Mr. Presti’s second arrest in six days in connection with the bar’s defiance of shutdown rules.
Lawyers for the bar and the bar’s owner, Keith McAlarney, said they did not immediately have a comment on Sunday afternoon. Mr. Presti did not respond to a request for comment.
But a post on the bar’s Facebook page objected to Mr. Presti’s arrest, saying he had “just finished working an 18-hour day to provide for his family and save our establishment.”
The bar has become a rallying point for defiance of virus restrictions in recent weeks. Located in a state-designated zone where indoor service is banned because of a surge in virus cases, it continued to serve patrons even after its liquor license was suspended at the end of November.
In rallies outside the tavern and in YouTube videos and Facebook posts, Mr. Presti and Mr. McAlarney have maintained that the restrictions in Staten Island are unjust and impinge on their freedom. They have said people should be able to decide whether to risk being infected while patronizing the bar, and have declared the establishment an “autonomous zone.”
In Staten Island, the city’s most conservative borough and a stronghold for President Trump, their argument has earned the bar many followers. Hundreds of people rallied outside Mac’s Public House on Wednesday and the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has endorsed violence, claimed on their Parler account that they had been in attendance. An online fund-raiser in support of the bar had gathered more than $80,000 in donations as of Sunday morning.
The rally at the bar was referenced sardonically this weekend on “Saturday Night Live” during the Weekend Update segment.
“People were outside the bar, shouting about freedom, taunting the cops, chanting that they should arrest the governor,” Pete Davidson, a well-known Staten Island native, said during the segment. “But it’s Staten Island, so I assume that it was just a typical last call.”
Mr. Presti’s arrest on Sunday came as a second wave of the pandemic tightened its grip on New York City.
The seven-day average rate of positive test results, which was less than 2 percent at the beginning of November, is now more than 5 percent for the first time since May, according to city figures.
Hospitalizations have steadily ticked up over the last three months. The city’s health commissioner last week urged people over 65 years old or those who face an increased risk of severe illness from the virus to halt all nonessential activities and stay home.
The southern part of Staten Island, where the bar is located, has been a particular area of concern. It had a seven-day average test positivity rate of 7.58 percent, according to figures published on Saturday from the state. In late November, the state reopened an emergency hospital in the borough to address a surge in cases.
Still, Mac’s Public House stayed open after hours despite Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants. When indoor service in the area was banned because of the surge in cases, the bar continued to serve customers.
On Nov. 27, the state suspended the bar’s liquor license. Sheriff’s deputies arrested Mr. Presti on Tuesday after the bar continued to violate state and city health orders. Then on Wednesday, the state shut the bar down.
Mayor Bill de Blasio told “The Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC that most businesses had been adhering to state and local health measures. Mac’s Public House was an anomaly and “obviously wanted to get publicity for themselves,” he said Friday.
“They made a big deal of it, but they’re shut down now,” he added.
But in a Facebook post on Saturday, the bar said it would be open for service again that evening.
Deputies on Saturday evening saw people entering a commercial space next to the bar, which had “previously appeared empty and unused during previous visits to the location,” the sheriff’s office said. But deputies believed that people were walking through the commercial space and entering the bar through a back door.
Deputies saw Mr. Presti inside the bar, where people were being served food and alcohol in exchange for a “monetary donation,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Around midnight, Mr. Presti left the bar through the front door and was headed to his car nearby when deputies confronted him and tried to arrest him, but Mr. Presti fled on foot, got into his car and drove into one of the deputies, according to the sheriff’s office. The deputy was thrown onto the hood of the car, the office said. Mr. Presti was not injured.