The long-simmering feud between the city and a Grant City pub which has bucked government-imposed coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions reignited this week, this time in federal court.
Daniel Presti, the manager of Mac’s Public House, and Louis Gelormino, one of his lawyers, have sued the city, the mayor and the city sheriff’s office, alleging they were wrongfully detained inside the tavern and issued summonses Dec. 1.
Presti also contends city Sheriff Joseph Fucito defamed him in statements he made to the media after Presti’s confrontation with sheriff’s deputies in the early morning hours of Dec. 6.
Earlier this year, Presti was cleared of criminal charges stemming from the latter incident.
The suit, in Brooklyn federal court, follows a notice of claim Presti filed with the city comptroller in February, announcing his intention to sue to the city.
Presti and Gelormino seek unspecified monetary damages.
“Louis Gelormino — a highly regard lawyer — and Danny Presti — his client — committed no crimes, yet they were arrested in what is a clear abuse of power by the city,” said their attorney John G. Balestriere. “They look forward to obtaining justice in the courts.”
Last fall, Mac’s became a flashpoint in protesting coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. Rallies, drawing large and vocal crowds, were held outside of it.
Mac’s has been hit with dozens of summonses and thousands of dollars in fines for allegedly flouting COVID-19 restrictions.
In posted signs, the bar declared itself an Autonomous Zone as of Nov. 20, stating it wouldn’t abide by any rules and regulations issued by the governor or mayor.
However, the plaintiffs’ civil complaint makes no mention of the coronavirus.
At the time of the Dec. 1 incident, Mac’s was in a designated “Orange Zone.” Under coronavirus restrictions, indoor dining was not permitted in Orange Zone establishments.
The civil complaint alleges the events unfolded around 6:20 p.m. Twenty sheriff’s deputies showed up around 6:20 p.m. and began “aggressively speaking” to Presti and his customers, said the complaint.
Gelormino began recording their actions, and sheriff’s deputies refused to let him leave when he asked to, alleges the complaint.
Despite providing his ID, Gelormino was detained for 90 minutes, the complaint contends.
A large crowd gathered outside, many of whom knew the attorney professionally and personally.
His being held inside for so long “embarrassed” the lawyer in front of those people and caused him “mental harm,” the complaint alleges.
Presti and Gelormino received summonses for allegedly violating executive orders.
Presti was also cited for violating the health law and local state of emergency, selling alcohol without a license and other infractions.
However, the summonses were tossed out just after Christmas.
Afterward, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration said the citations had been mistakenly thrown out due to a clerical error within Manhattan Criminal Court.
The sheriff’s office re-served the summonses in April. They are currently pending in Criminal Court.
Reinstating the summonses “is unusual and suggests singling out of plaintiffs,” alleges the complaint.
Matters between Presti and authorities came to head during the early morning hours of Dec. 6.
Presti left the bar on Lincoln Avenue around 12:15 a.m. Sheriff’s deputies approached him to arrest him for defying city and state orders, officials said.
Fucito, the city sheriff, has insisted the deputies identified themselves as police and ordered Presti to stop.
Presti, however, maintains they never did.
Presti said the men who approached him were dressed in black. He worried they might be the same individuals who had caused a disturbance outside the pub two days earlier, said the complaint.
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Deputies followed him in an unmarked car and rammed Presti, forcing him to stop, said the complaint.