A Western New York bar believes the state suspended its liquor license because it says it made a joke about the governor and his executive order requiring customers to purchase food with alcohol.
"He doesn't have a right to selectively enforce laws or directives against certain people just because he has a personal beef with them," Chris Gardella, the owner's brother, said.
According to a release, last week a State Liquor Authority investigator entered The Village Line in Kenmore and asked for a menu. He said he was told he could order a pizza next door and bring it back to the bar.
The bar's story is a little different.
"We didn't serve anyone alcohol without having food present," Gardella said. "As far as we can tell, it was someone who came into order wings, which we didn't have. We recommended they go somewhere else and that was that."
The investigator also said he witnessed three patrons with alcohol and no food. Gardella said they had probably already finished.
"The directive that Cuomo had put out was not that you need to have food in front of you at all times while consuming alcoholic beverages. It was: if you are going to go to a bar to drink, you need to order food," he said.
The bar was charged with violating the executive order and for not having food available, a requirement for all licensed establishments regardless of the order. Gardella said not only does The Village Line have food, but its menu is relatively famous after recently going viral on social media.
"The messaging was satirical in nature which I think anyone, any reasonable person would be able to understand. With that said, the menu is very much available with all the items listed on there," he said.
The menu includes flour tortilla, Utz BBQ chips, a carrot stick, going on to eventually create an acrostic spelling out an obscenity and the governor's last name. Gardella didn't want to litigate whether the items were in compliance with the liquor license but rather asked if there was a reason the SLA was there in the first place.
"Look at other bars on Elmwood Avenue that don't serve any food, that if you walk by there on any given day are still operating without any level of harassment from the state," he said.
The state said the investigation was in response to complaints, and enforcement actions are driven by a bar owner's decision to put public health at risk. Gardella has a different theory.
"I can only assume that the governor's thin skin has led him to purposely target The Village Line," he said.” If you go to The Village Line, we're not a well-known bar outside of the neighborhood. This isn't something that a state official just stumbles upon into because they were taking a walk through Buffalo."
The bar was one of seven the governor's office announced Thursday afternoon had been suspended. It was the only one from Upstate New York though.
Gardella said The Village Line is looking at its options and wants to get its license reinstated. He said he has no regrets about the menu.