Governor Cuomo: Accused of Waging a War Against the Hospitality Industry   

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By Robert Golomb

 

The reason that Mickey King can name every Governor of New York State starting from Thomas Dewey, the state’s 44th chief executive who served from 1943- 1954, up until the current Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state’s 56th leader who has served from 2011 to the present, is that the names of every one out of the total of 12 appears on the 75 year old guest book list of Antun’s- an iconic  Queens catering hall founded in 1945 by its eponymous owner, Frank Antun,  and bought by Mickey’s father Joe in 1996.

“Right here in our guest books are the names of 12 governors who have attended at least one event at Antun’s,” said King the long- time chief operating officer and the current president of this tightly knit family business, at the start of a recent interview with me.

As any serious student of New York State government would know, the 10 former governors whose names can be found in between the appellations of Dewey and Cuomo on the thousands of pages of Antun’s guest books are Averell Harriman, Nelson Rockefeller, Malcolm Wilson, Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David Patterson.

I was not surprised, as you will soon discover why, that it was the 56th Governor, Andrew Cuomo, whom King, 40, the married father of 2 young children, wanted to discuss. “I had met Governor Cuomo at several past events at Antun’s… He seemed pleasant, and I respected the job he was doing as governor,” stated King.

Beginning, though, shortly after the COVID epidemic struck the world in February 2020, King explained that his respect for Cuomo descended into the deepest level of contempt. “By issuing edicts that totally closed restaurants down and later edicts that reduced capacity to a mere 25%, Governor Cuomo has declared war against the entire hospitality industry, which includes restaurants, bars, hotels and catering halls, employing in total approximately 900,000 women and men, pre-COVID,” King charged.

Noting that since last March more than 1300 restaurants and bars in NYC alone have permanently closed, leaving more than 160,000 people unemployed, King elaborated, “The sight of goodbye messages on so many bar and restaurant doors thanking customers for their many years of patronage tells the tragic story of so many hardworking owners and employees who have been the victims of Andrew Cuomo’s arbitrary and non-scientific based policies.”

While calling Cuomo’s policies “arbitrary and non-scientific” might sound hyperbolic, King offered strong evidence to support that accusation. Citing data from independent research on the reported transmission of COVID showing that only 1.3% of new COVID infections can be traced to restaurants and bars, King stated, “It’s a cruel joke for the governor to say that his severe restrictions are based on science. Rather, research proves that the opposite is the case. The reason,” King then added, “that catering halls are not included in that data is because of Cuomo, they have not been able to do enough business to be statistically relevant to be included in those studies.”

Referring to the same studies, King noted that 74% of new COVID infections come from private in-home gatherings. “It’s as if the governor is too busy praising himself on tv, including his narcissistic seemingly nightly guest shots on his brother’s show, and spending countless hours writing a self-praise book, that he doesn’t have the time to read the actual studies and base his policies on them,” he charged.

King elaborated that he sees a deadly cause and effect connection between the governor’s edicts restricting the guest capacity of bars, restaurants, hotels and catering halls and the alarming spread of COVID at large private home gatherings. “Because people are not allowed to hold group social events at previously commonly frequented dining venues, which have meticulously followed all state mandated safety protocols, many people instead held the gatherings at their own homes, which, of course, are unsupervised,” stated King.

“The result,” he inferred, “has been a mammoth increase in the comparative rate of infection. For that, just as in the deaths of more than 12,000 seniors in nursing homes, Governor Cuomo must be held accountable.’’

King actually is doing just that. In addition to running Antun’s, he has served for the past 7 years on the board of the New York State Restaurant Association, which has vociferously opposed many of Cuomo’s COVID related restrictions on the state’s hospitality industry. “I first became involved with the association with the goal of helping them continue serving the then prosperous and growing hospitality industry,” King recalled.  “But now, because of Cuomo’s war against the entire industry, our job has solely become to prevent him from causing even further damage.”

Still, King explained that even with “Cuomo’s war against the entire industry,” his own Antun’s has remained in business, but not without him and many of his former staff suffering great financial loss. “We have,” he stated, “managed to remain in business. But it has been a great struggle. What has made it particularly difficult for us and other catering halls is Cuomo’s arbitrary and onerous rules from banning dancing, to limiting  the maximum guest capacity to 150- we by the way previously had a 1200  person maximum- to mandating that all events end no later than 11pm.”

“As a result of these and other onerous Cuomo regulations,” King continued, “We are doing only 9% of the pre-Covid business. And at the same time, our monthly overhead has remained the same, our taxes are still due to the city and state, and if they are not paid on time we face a 20% penalty.  What troubles me most, though, is the plight of the more than one hundred of our employees whom we were forced to let go under these dire circumstances.”

King added that he is also troubled about the numerous   restaurants, bars and catering halls owned by his counterparts in Queens that have closed this past year. “There had always been enough business to keep us all very busy.  So I have never considered the owners of businesses in the {hospitality} industry in Queens as competitors, but rather as peers and friends. So seeing so many for ‘rent signs’ on the windows of the dining establishments of my friends is very hard for me to accept. And for that I blame our governor,” said King.

It would be reasonable, I believe, to conclude that King is   hoping that come the state’s gubernatorial election in November 2022, that “our governor” will be replaced with one far more to the liking of King, his fellow entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry and the tens of thousands of the men and women whom they once employed.

 

Robert Golomb is a nationally and internationally published columnist. Mail him at MrBob347@aol.com and follow him on Twitter@RobertGolomb

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