The latest incident involving business restrictions during the pandemic underscored how the middle ground remains almost uninhabited.

A New York City bar owner was taken away in handcuffs Tuesday after a law enforcement sting caught him providing indoor service in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, reports the sheriff’s office. According to the Staten Island Advance, 34-year-old Danny Presti was arrested after five officers showed up at Mac’s Public House on Staten Island, a GOP-heavy borough.

Sheriff Joseph Fucito’s news release said plainclothes deputies went inside and ordered food in exchange for a mandatory $40 “donation.” Uniformed deputies went in then and issued tickets for state and city violations.

The sheriff said Presti was charged with obstruction of governmental administration in addition to the charges stemming from unauthorized food and beverage service.

Although his business is in an area designated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as an orange zone, Presti and co-owner Keith McAlarney had declared the bar an “autonomous zone,” a protest move similar to one that claimed a Seattle neighborhood in June. Running up fines in the thousands of dollars, the bar has been defying the curfew by serving customers past the 10 p.m. cutoff.

Lou Gelormino, an attorney representing the tavern, told the newspaper that Presti was arrested after refusing to leave his business, “and at that point … they considered it trespassing.” And the adversarial material just keeps coming.

Another of the tavern’s attorneys, Mark Fonte, told the newspaper, “These sheriff’s officers are ‘wannabe’ cops. This is what happens when little people get a little power.”

State Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Republican, claimed that Presti had received only a cease-and-desist order and should not have been arrested, according to the Advance, but added, “We respect law enforcement on Staten Island like no other borough.”

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