Staten Island’s Indoor Dining Fight Exposes Borough’s North-South Divide

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Sal Finocchiaro, the proprietor of Palermo Pizzeria, located in southern Staten Island’s state-designated “orange zone,” has never met Danny Presti, owner of Mac’s Public House.

But he’s taking his cues from Presti, who’s spurred headlines for his defiance of the state order prohibiting indoor dining in the high-COVID-19 area.

“I literally sent a security guard to our front door,” Finocchiaro told THE CITY Friday. “Last night, the sheriff came and I closed the gates on him, I didn’t let him in.”

Five miles away from Mac’s, the owners of another “Publick House” say they’re frustrated with a lack of government support. Located in the north of Staten Island, it’s in an area where indoor dining is still allowed.

But unlike Finocchiaro and Presti, the owners of O’Henry’s Publick House have no plans to flout regulations if Staten Island’s northern half also has its restaurants shut down. Under new rules detailed Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state will close indoor dining in the city if hospitals near capacity.

And instead of leading rallies like Presti, O’Henry’s has been preparing meals to feed homeless Staten Islanders through Project Hospitality.

“We don’t want to be mistaken for folks who are operating in that way,” said Bobby Digi Olisa, a co-owner of O’Henry’s Publick House, a British-style pub.

The differing approaches reflect a split between the Staten Island’s northern and southern halves that traditionally has centered on electoral politics and has extended in recent months to the reaction to COVID-related mask rules and business restrictions.



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