ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) -- More than $1 million has been paid out by New York bars and restaurants for violating the state's COVID-19 regulations. Enforcement is led by the state's liquor authority.
"It's a really challenging time for the restaurant industry, and we're trying to follow all these new guidelines, deal with all these new rules," said Melissa Fleischut, President & CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, who said the vast majority of establishments have been in compliance.
The state has suspended more than 200 liquor licenses for businesses not following COVID-19 regulations and filed more than 1,000 charges. Fines can be up to $10,000 per violation. While restaurants have a duty to follow the rules, they also hope customers will be understanding.
In a statement the SLA said:
"Our goal is to protect public health, not collect fines or suspend licenses, and in an ideal world we would not issue a single violation because every bar and restaurant would comply with the state's public health rules."
"These guidelines aren't something that the restaurant made up, you know? They're not doing it to be difficult or to ruin your experience. These are state health guidelines put together by the state health department, and we're forced to follow them. And it's an effort to keep everybody safe," Fleischut said.
SLA said the penalty money paid goes to the State's General Fund.
In a statement, State Division of the Budget spokesperson Freeman Klopott said:
"The general fund is the primary source of funding for schools, hospitals, local governments, and other critical services the state supports. The only purpose of SLA fines is to change behavior to curb the transmission of the virus, and collections are de minimis in the context of the State’s $62 billion, four-year revenue loss as a result of the virus."
The SLA collected $10,374,605 in fines last fiscal year from April 1, 2019 to March 3, 2020.
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