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Iconic NYC bar White Horse Tavern forced to close

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An iconic New York City bar frequented by celebrities like Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Jack Kerouac is temporarily closed for business.

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White Horse Tavern, in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood, announced Wednesday the State Liquor Authority suspended its license until further notice after receiving multiple violations for overcrowding in the bar’s street cafe space.

“We are the first to admit we were overwhelmed with the demand and weren’t prepared with the staff to deal with the overcrowding. We attempted to adapt and come up with solutions to keep our patrons and staff safe and still remain in business,” a note posted on the bar's Instagram page read.

The letter went on to explain the challenges the business has faced trying to stay open during the pandemic and control the crowds of people flocking to the bar.

“Nobody is above the law, we aren’t asking for special treatment. But I hope people realize that this new way of doing business was thrust upon us. There is no perfect way to deal with hundreds of people showing up out of the blue. We did our best and continued to try and work towards what was asked of us," it said.

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With indoor dining suspended indefinitely in New York City, a number of bars and restaurants in Manhattan neighborhoods like the West Village, Upper East Side and Astoria have received the most complaints about violating social distancing orders outside. More than 2,400 complaints were filed from instances in those areas in six days between June 11 and June 20, the New York Post reported, citing data from the New York City Department of Information Technology. The complaints prompted New York Gov. Cuomo to reprimand business owners and patrons for defying safety measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.

White Horse Tavern bar owner Eytan Sugarman wrote an open letter to WestView News, a local publication covering the West Village, responding to its inquiry regarding unruly crowds. Sugarman did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment.

“We were very overrun this weekend and frankly unprepared for the influx of traffic. In the year plus I have owned it we never had such crowds,” Sugarman wrote, claiming that he has taken measures to enforce mask-wearing rules and social distancing, but said he could not control crowds.

Sugarman says he went up and down the block asking people to clear the sidewalk to make room for a walkway but that customers ultimately didn’t listen.

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“The argument is that anything by my property is my responsibility. How can I force mask-wearing? I suggest it, and I even offer masks at my expense,” he said in the letter. “As for distancing, again, how can I police this? People stand near each other and am I supposed to physically pull them six feet apart? I’m not a police officer. I don’t see how I can be held accountable for other people making the decision to ignore the warnings.”

Sugarman went on to commit to hiring staff specifically to keep the sidewalk clear.

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“I can’t control how many people show up,” Sugarman wrote. “Clearly people are dying to get out and about after the long quarantine period. I am trying my best to be a responsible owner and neighbor while attempting to keep my doors open.”

‘I’m not a police officer. I don’t see how I can be held accountable for other people making the decision to ignore the warnings.’

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White Horse Tavern opened in 1880 and bills itself as the second-oldest bar in New York City. Sugarman, a restaurateur who also owns swanky Midtown steakhouse Hunt & Fish Club and once had a joint venture with Justin Timberlake’s barbecue restaurant, took over White Horse Tavern last year.

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