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Nassau probes event for Hempstead supervisor over COVID rules

A Republican fundraiser for Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin with 200 seated people Tuesday night is being investigated for possible violations of state COVID-19 protocols for social gatherings. Newsday's Steve Langford has the story. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost; File footage

The Nassau County fire marshal is investigating whether a Republican fundraiser for Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin with 200 seated people Tuesday night violated state COVID-19 protocols for social gatherings.

Clavin’s campaign held a fundraiser at the Plattduetsche Park Restaurant and Catering Hall in Franklin Square, where donors pre-registered to sit at tables at the outdoor German catering hall and beer garden, Nassau GOP spokesman Mike Deery said.

A spokesman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, said the gathering may have violated state gathering limits of 50 people.

"A social gathering of more than 50 people is a public health violation anywhere in New York State," county spokesman Michael Fricchione said. "The Nassau County Fire Marshal’s Office has been notified and is launching an investigation into the matter."

Republican officials said all public health measures were taken, including attendees registering in advance, their temperatures checked before entering and the tables of 10 each spaced about 10 feet apart.

Guests were required to wear masks when not seated, and officials assigned social distancing monitors to keep people from leaving their tables and mingling. Guests were also asked if they had traveled out of state and followed quarantine requirements.

Photos from the event showed attendees spaced apart and most wearing masks, including Clavin, except for speakers such as Nassau County Republican chairman Joseph Cairo.

The restaurant’s outdoor dining area has a 2,400-person capacity, which means the fundraiser occupied 10% of the restaurant’s capacity, Deery said.

A manager for the restaurant could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The restaurant adjusted its hours during the pandemic for outdoor dining and was closed on Tuesday, when the fundraiser was held.

Clavin was elected to his first term in January and is up for re-election next November.

"In short, the by-reservation-only dinner was not a 'public event,' " Deery said, speaking for the campaign Friends of Don Clavin. "The county executive’s administration should stop playing politics with the COVID pandemic. It should be ashamed ... for harassing small businesses. Rather, the county administration should be working to help small businesses to recover in a responsible and safe manner."

County officials said the fire marshal would investigate whether the campaign fundraiser was an illegal gathering or was allowed under state guidelines for outdoor dining establishments, which permit tables spaced apart as long as it does not exceed 50% capacity.

If it was strictly sitting down and dining spaced apart, then it would be allowed, Fricchione said. If it was being used as a space for a social gathering, then it would be deemed illegal, he said.

The state has strictly enforced other gatherings, and recently fined the Miller Place Inn $12,000 for having a Sweet 16 party with 81 guests, exceeding the state limit of 50 people. State officials deemed it "a superspreader event" after 37 people tested positive for COVID-19.

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