Little Neck eatery that hosted Whitestone GOP party with ‘COVID conga line’ loses liquor license

Photo by Dean Moses

A Little Neck restaurant at the center of several controversies over the past few months had its liquor license suspended after it hosted a maskless holiday party that garnered condemnation from the governor, mayor and a slew of others earlier this month.

First reported by Patch, Il Bacco Ristorante, located at 253-24 Northern Blvd., had its alcohol privileges suspended by the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) on Dec. 24 after investigations began into a party hosted at the eatery that appeared to violate COVID-19 guidelines.

“After video surfaced of a potential superspreader holiday party at Il Bacco with maskless dancing, the SLA immediately launched an investigation,” an SLA spokesperson told QNS Thursday. “During a follow-up inspection, investigators found flagrant violations of indoor dining regulations and existing health safety and Alcoholic Beverage Control laws, while verifying the maskless party depicted in the video did in fact occur. This summary suspension should send a strong message that we have zero tolerance for establishments that put New Yorkers’ health at risk.”

As part of its investigation, the SLA found that, in addition to patrons dining indoors and staff not wearing masks properly, the restaurant was operating with several safety violations, including non-working emergency exit lights, improperly stored propane tanks and non-inspected fire extinguishers.

The emergency suspension will remain in effect indefinitely, the SLA said.

The party, thrown by the Whitestone Republican Club, came under fire after video surfaced online of attendees, including City Council candidate Vickie Paladino, making their way through a conga line without masks or social distancing. The SLA confirmed the accuracy of the video with Il Bacco’s owner’s son and several party attendees.

Beyond the suspension of their host’s liquor license, the Republican club’s party may have resulted in the spread of COVID-19.

At least three people who attended the Dec. 11 celebration, including one who was recently hospitalized, have tested positive for the virus, as reported by the Queens Daily Eagle.

“Yes, we held a holiday party. A good time was had by all,” the Whitestone Republican Club wrote in a Facebook post following the event. “But we are not the mask police, nor are we the social distancing police. Adults have the absolute right to make their own decisions, and clearly many chose to interact like normal humans and not paranoid zombies in hazmat suits.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo condemned the gathering shortly after a video of the event, shared by journalist Matt Binder, circulated online.

“I saw the video — COVID conga lines are not smart. That’s my official position,” Cuomo said at a Dec. 22 press call, laughing in incredulity. “Why you would do an unmasked conga line in the middle of a COVID pandemic, whatever your political persuasion, defies logical explanation, as far as I’m concerned.”

Il Bacco’s owner Joe Oppedisano and his daughter, Tina Oppedisano, who manages the restaurant, sued Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio in August, claiming the shut down of indoor dining in New York City led to “irreparable harm” to the restaurant and the industry at large.

Neither Il Bacco’s ownership nor the Whitestone Republican Club immediately responded to requests for comment from QNS.