December 4, 2021

2 Cortland bars cited by state, face penalty

coronavirus particles

Two bars in the city of Cortland were cited in June by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s task force on reopening guideline violations, with both establishments facing a monetary civil penalty.

“They say that we are in violation of guidelines, but we don’t know the particulars,” said Tom Terwilliger, the owner of the Red Jug Pub.

Bars were allowed to reopen June 12, with restrictions such as a 50% capacity. On July 16, the state then required that food must be served with alcohol.

The Red Jug Pub, located at 31 Central Ave., was listed as violating reopening guidelines in a public document from the State Liquor Authority dated July 21.

On June 19, investigators with the Liquor Authority said Terwilliger violated the executive orders by serving at least 22 customers who were standing while consuming alcohol rather than being seated, and that they were also not wearing masks, according to the notice sent to the establishment. The notice also alleges that the bar was not operating a “true takeout service or dine-in under SLA (state Liquor Authority) guidance.”

“All of our policies that are in place are to the best of our knowledge compliant,” Terwilliger said.

Central City Bar and Grill, located at 17 Central Ave. was also listed as having violations from June 19. The bar was cited for allowing at least five patrons to “consume beverages in open containers while standing in close proximity to the premises and lingering and/ or congregating within 100 feet of the establishment,” states the notice.

“Additionally, the patrons were entering and exiting the premise while holding beverages, no food was being served to go with the beverages and none of the patrons were wearing face coverings,” states the notices.

Owner Mike Spollen couldn’t be reached for comment.

Investigations into bars by the task force can come about a number of ways, said Bill Crowley, the public information officer for the Liquor Authority.

He said many times they are following up on complaints, but other times they can randomly select places to check in on.

“Both of these were complaints,” he said Thursday.

Owners of both establishments have the chance to plead not guilty and have a hearing with the Liquor Authority board. If they plead no contest before Aug. 12 a monetary civil penalty will be imposed. Terwilliger faces a $2,000 penalty and Spollen faces a $1,500 penalty.

However, both owners could face a deferred or forthwith suspension, according to the documents.

“A deferred suspension means you will not lose your privilege to sell alcoholic beverages for this violation,” the notices state. “If there is another violation within 12 months, the number of days deferred may be added to the penalty on the subsequent violation. A forthwith suspension means you will lose your privilege to sell alcoholic beverages for the number of days specified.”

The Dark Horse at 96 Main St. is also closed, but not for violations. Rather, owner George Seibel said he didn’t open because it was not prepared to handle the social distancing guidelines.

“We just felt for the safety of our employees, our customer and for the safety of the community we weren’t in the position to social distance safely,” he said, noting the bar will remain closed until the guidelines are loosened or he knows he can safely reopen.

On top of that, he said the new guideline requiring food be served with alcohol would’ve been hard to meet because of the bar’s limited kitchen.

“If we had open before, we probably would’ve had to shut down now,” he said.