Help Pay My Constitutional Warriors

My Story:
I am raising money to help pay some constitutional warriors who came to my defense against the overreach of the State of New York. If you are reading this, you may know a little bit about me and my bar, Lucky, in the East Village. I was one of the bars/restaurants in New York that had their liquor license summarily suspended even though no safety violations were found in my bar. I was cited for not forcing my customers to order food with their beer, but it was noted that all eight of my customers were socially distancing properly, everyone was seated and drinking at my outdoor tables, and all employees (that would've been just ME) were wearing masks.

I followed Governor Cuomo’s approach to flatten the curve and approved of almost everything he did, but it has been said that in times when unusual measures are needed, we all must be extra vigilant to make sure that even a well-meaning government does not act arbitrarily. When I believed Executive Order 202.52 seemed arbitrary and not related to the health of my customers, I started a petition to challenge the rule. Literally, I sought to petition my government for redress of grievances. That is a right guaranteed to me with this exact language from the First Amendment. Because of the media attention the #SeatingNotEating petition received, the SLA learned about the petition, targeted my little bar, and I was shut down within 24 hours even without any safety violations.

Yes, I know that the world is a dumpster fire right now and there are, quite literally, thousands of causes that need our help and support. Millions of people are out of work with no end in sight for the suffering. But if you can kick in even a dollar, it would help. $5 would be ideal, the cost of a cheap beer. And obviously if you are able, more would be awesome.  Please do what you can to help me offset my legal costs. These amazing lawyers jumped to my defense without first being paid any money; who does that ? For more information, see below for the back story on this drama that led me to question the good faith of my government, but
also to believe in the goodwill of friends, lawyers and my neighbors. Please help with whatever you can. Thanks and hope to see you at Lucky very soon!!

Back Story:
On July 16 2020, Executive Order 205.20 was put into effect by Governor Andrew Cuomo. I knew immediately that this law was wrong on a fundamental level and that it was not  based in science or concerned with health. I decided that rather than complying I would protest so I wrote the petition “SeatingNotEating ” which was posted on Monday July 27. Within days it had hundreds of signatures and the story was picked up by The Daily News, 1010Wins, E.V. Grieve,
Eater and others. 

On Monday, August 3, two people saying they represented the New York State Liquor Authority visited my bar. After checking my back yard, where exactly eight seated customers were quietly drinking, they asked me if anyone had ordered food. I was nervous and scared, as anyone would be when a government agency with the ability to take away your right to do business might be. I babbled on about my plight and my “protest” and said far too much. They misunderstood my
blathering and fined me $35,000 for a “second violation.” There is no way I could commit a “second violation” because the rule I broke as a protest was only instituted on July 16, 2020. 

They didn’t see any other safety violations and noted everyone was appropriately socially distancing, wearing masks, no crowding or party atmosphere existed, etc. They gave me a one-sheet “warning” and left. The following day I was notified by a friend in the press that my liquor license had been suspended. I wrote that petition to unleash my inner Don Quixote. No, seriously, I felt the law was wrong.
Since this rule went into effect, over 160 bars have been closed down. This law needs to be reversed, not just for me, not just for the other shuttered bars, but for the people of New York who rely on these local watering holes for their social lives and their human connection. Not to mention for the owners of these establishments who’ve lost their livelihoods. Small businesses
are the lifeblood of this city.

I immediately contacted my friend, a civil rights attorney, Wylie Stecklow to discuss whether I had been unfairly targeted for exercising my First Amendment Rights and petitioning my government for redress of grievances. I was told by the SLA that I would have to pay a $35,000 fine to get my liquor license back. Instead, Wylie and another lawyer he works with, Jon Avins, drafted a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Executive Order plus other claims including a First Amendment Retaliation claim. This was filed on Friday August 28 in the Southern District of New York as OOPS v. Cuomo (OOPS is the official corporate name for my bar).  

While Wylie and Jon offered to do this work by seeking fees directly from the government when we won, within days of filing the suit, the SLA worked out a complete resolution of the case so that I would be able to get my license back! As part of the settlement, Wylie and Jon had to waive the right to get fees from the losing party. They agreed in order to help me get this settlement done and to get my license back. Together Wylie and Jon invested more than 70 hours of their time to join the Quixotic battle against the State Liquor Authority and help me reopen. (And we won, did I mention that ? We won !!!)

These guys are the good guys, fighting for our rights. Please help me help them. I would have lost my bar if they didn’t jump in and battle for me, now it's my turn to jump in and try to battle for them. Help me fight for what's right!

I don’t wanna paint myself as some First Amendment crusader or anything but this entire experience has been pretty scary. I’ve been out here all alone poking some pretty powerful bears. It’s a non-stop battle. I filed this lawsuit because I believe in doing what is right, even if I wind up losing in the long run. Whatever happens, I will always be under an incredible amount of stress because there’s always the threat of them returning and finding other infractions.

Here are bios for both my Constitutional Warriors!

Wylie Stecklow, Esq.
Wylie Stecklow is a civil rights attorney in downtown Manhattan. He is an adjunct Professor at Fordham Law School and past chair of the FBA National Civil Rights Law Section. He is a founding member of the National Action Network’s Legal Rights Nights, a recipient of U.S. Congress Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for Community Service, the New York City Council Certificate for Outstanding Citizenship and Manhattan Borough President’s Office Certificate of Recognition for Service to the Community. In 2004, he was the General Counsel for the Billionaires for Bush, and in September 2011, his firm was retained by the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly, and organized pro bono representation for over 200 Occupy arrestees. He has litigated 1983 cases involving First Amendment Rights in New York, Maryland and Iowa. Since 2015, he has been named a Civil Rights Super Lawyer. Among his favorite clients are Rev Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir, Occupy Wall Street, The Yes Men, Stop Spectra Pipeline, among many other activist organizations and protest movements. He is currently part of the National Lawyers Guild Floyd Affirmative Litigation Task Force. He is also a co-founder and General Counsel for Figment Arts. Since 2006, he has been the Big Chief and host of NYC’s Most Authentic Mardi Gras Party, Fat Friday, an annual non-profit fundraiser.

Jon Avins
Jon Avins left the commercial litigation business after 15 years in order to practice constitutional law on behalf of civil rights Plaintiffs. His practice mostly involves representing people who have been subject to illegal mistreatment at the hands of the police, and those who have been singled out by the Government and made to suffer for speaking out on public issues. He has litigated 1983 cases involving First and Fourth Amendment Rights in New York, Maryland and Iowa. He believes in the primacy of the Bill of Rights.


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Editrix Abby 
New York, NY
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