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Catering hall operators rallied Friday in Hauppauge to call on New York State officials to amend coronavirus restrictions to allow 50 percent occupancy at catering halls.

The caterers, who have filed a class action lawsuit seeking permission to fully reopen and launched reopennyvenues.com to spread their message, said their businesses are essential to hosting weddings, sweet 16s, and other milestones that were put on hold amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The state has capped the crowd size at 50 for such events, but caterers say they can safely host larger crowds, and if they’re denied, they may go out of business — further hurting not only caterers, but also bakers, DJs, photographers, limo drivers, and other companies tied to such events.

“Without private and public events, our cultural, political, economic, and physical landscapes have been dramatically altered,” the organizers said in a statement. “While the procedures and protocols for safety are essential to resuming business, it is our utmost priority to ensure that our employees, clients, and guests have sufficient confidence in our industry so we can reopen and safely host private events. We are committed to returning employees to the events industry safely while complying with the protocols and mandates implemented by the city and state governments as it pertains to gatherings.”

Catering halls statewide were closed along with most other businesses to curb the spread of coronavirus when its spread peaked in New York in March. But catering halls were among a handful of industries, including movie theaters and amusement parks, that were left out of the fourth and final phase of the reopening plan this summer. So were gyms, bowling alleys, casinos, and malls, but those industries were belatedly allowed to reopen.

On Monday, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) held a news conference to tout that a House-passed COVID-19 relief package includes the Save Our Stages Act, which would provide $10 billion in assistance to live entertainment venues, as well as the Restaurants Act, which would create a $120 billion grant program for the restaurant and catering industries. It now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration. The congressman noted that the hospitality and entertainment industry lost 82,000 jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — more than any other industry on Long Island.

Friday’s caterer rally comes after Giorgio’s Catering in Calverton had its liquor license suspended when State Liquor Authority investigators observed on Sept. 25 nearly 100 guests — many without masks — at a wedding, which is nearly twice the legal limit.

“Enough is enough,” said an owner of a facility that can hold up to 500 people. “The state came down hard on an East End hall that had plenty of room to safely accommodate the 94 guests that showed up. They weren’t going to turn them away because they had plenty of room to safely host them. Shutting them down and revoking their license in light of the economic hardship they are facing is just not right. Facing penalties of $10,000 per violation and paying lawyers’ fees when the PPP loans ran out three months ago is unaffordable and impractical during these difficult times for our industry.” 

A spokesman for Cuomo appeared un-phased, saying in part that “large events dramatically increase the risk of COVID and can easily become superspreader events.”

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.