As restaurants and bars began to open up with outdoor dining and limited indoor dining, the State Liquor Authority (SLA) released new clarifications that prohibit ticketed events in restaurants and bars — all while concert halls remain shut in New York.
According to the SLA website, “Restaurants and other on-premises food and beverage establishments that have a license through the SLA are only allowed to offer on-premise music if their license certificate specifically allows for such activity.”
It continues, “All other forms of live entertainment, such as exotic dancing, comedy shows, karaoke, etc., are not permissible currently regardless of phase.”
This states that only “incidental music is permissible at this time,” meaning that Long Island concerts, comedy shows and other advertised or ticketed shows are not allowed. The SLA claims that “music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself.”
These new rules were the final straw for Liam Hudock, lead singer of Bangers and Mash, a Celtic rock band that tours throughout the United States, year-round.
Hudock said that the last time he and his band played was March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. He saw these new guidelines as unfair to him and the performing community.
“Throughout the shutdown and quarantine my friends and colleagues in the entertainment and hospitality industry came up with novel and safe ways to continue,” he told GreaterPatchogue.
“During all of this, we have been working to flatten the curve, just like everyone else.”
But when the state announced their new rules last week, he decided to take a stand. “I’m not an activist,” he said. “I’m just a citizen who’s fed up with the capricious overreach of the state.”
He and several others stood outside the Army Recruitment Center on E. Main St. in Patchogue on Sunday evening to voice their concerns. Hudock said he wanted their voices to be heard in a village that is experiencing the hit, firsthand.
“The rules and guidelines promulgated by the SLA have been constantly changing since we entered phases two and three,” he said. “Venues have been playing a game of whack a mole trying to keep up… all while trying to stay in business, pay their employees and their bills.”
For three hours, the local performers and supporters of the arts shared their stories, explaining how this simply is not fair.
“If a person can sit in a conference room for an hour and watch a PowerPoint, masked and socially distant, why can’t they sit in a comedy club?” Hudock said. “The rules are not being enforced equally, and performers are being marginalized… This is not about politics. This is about fairness and equal enforcement of the rules.”
He added that during the stay-at-home orders, many people were gravitating towards the arts to find solace in a scary time. He said that if these new guidelines keep preventing entertainment and art now, there will be no new stuff in the future.
“If we don’t take a stance,” he said. “There will be no music left… the live performance is why we do it.”
Tim Saliani, a local comedian who performs across Long Island and in Manhattan, said that he’s just trying to make sense of everything that’s going on.
“We don’t understand how it’s fair that you can go bowling, go to the gym, but can’t go to a comedy club,” he said. “We’re all on board with being 100 percent safe and want to create a safe environment for everyone.”
While this may be the first local active rally in the music and entertainment scene, Hudock is hoping more will come out of it.
“Performers across the state should be doing the same as me,” he said.
Contributed reporting by Taylor Hayes
Photos by Julianne Mosher and Taylor Hayes