Authorities shut down party boat with more than 170 guests due to COVID concerns

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New York City officials have closed a party boat with more than 170 people on board as the city works to keep the coronavirus at bay.Ronny Vargas and Alex Suazo, owners of the Liberty Belle, were arrested Saturday night for violating the state’s ban on large crowds and for running an unlicensed bar, the New York Sheriff’s Office said. The office also said that the captain of the boat, who has not been identified, had received a warning not to display his identification number.Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said she alerted the sheriff after receiving complaints from residents who observed the boat in Manhattan waters and were concerned about the large crowds. Brewer noted on Twitter Sunday that the city, which was once the epicenter of the pandemic, had recorded no deaths from COVID-19 that day.

“If we want to see MORE Deathless Days and if we want a return to life WITHOUT social distancing, that means we must avoid reckless behaviors like alcoholic cruises that endanger our fellow New Yorkers no matter what. point we miss our friends and meet new people, ”she tweeted.

Empire Cruises, the company that operates the Liberty Belle, did not immediately return messages for comment. The boat owners have been ordered to appear in court for their violation.

Empire Cruises boasts that the Liberty Belle, which is a classically styled riverboat, can accommodate a maximum of 600 standing guests and has “four expansive decks including three interior decks and three exterior decks,” according to the Empire Cruise website. .

The incident is the latest in a series of crackdowns on large-scale rallies and parties instituted by state and city officials in recent weeks. Under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 Executive Order, crowds of non-essential workers are capped at 50 at indoor events.

On Sunday alone, the State Liquor Authority issued violations for 24 establishments in the city that violated social distancing guidelines, according to the New York governor’s office.

The state is also investigating several major parties and concerts, including the outdoor charity concert on July 25 in the Hamptons, which drew about 2,000 people. Cuomo told reporters the boat party was concerning and the state would continue to prey on violators.

” It is disrespectful. It’s illegal. It violates public health. It violates public decency, ”Cuomo said at a press conference Monday. “What if one of the people on this cruise got sick and died?” ”

New York City has recorded a total of 222,330 cases of coronavirus and 18,915 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 as of August 2, according to the city’s health department.

The seven-day average of new cases reported in the city was 281 on August 2, compared to the maximum seven-day average of 5,426 on April 15, according to the Department of Health.

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