The Cliffton in Patchogue is facing potential penalties for creating...

The Cliffton in Patchogue is facing potential penalties for creating a betting pool allowing patrons to pick whether NYC or Chicago will have the most shootings over the Labor Day weekend. Credit: James Carbone

A Patchogue bar is facing harsh criticism from state and local leaders and potential loss of its liquor license after taking bets on whether New York City or Chicago will have the most shooting deaths over the Labor Day weekend.

The Super Bowl-style box was posted on Instagram last week by The Cliffton, a self-professed "dive bar" on East Main Street.

A Suffolk police spokeswoman said the department is also investigating. 

Bar patrons could buy four boxes, each with a designated number corresponding with the predicted shooting-death totals. The winner would receive an undisclosed cash prize.

The caption of the Instagram post read: "Let the shooting sprees begin!"

Officials from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office, New York City and Patchogue quickly condemned the game and threatened legal action.

"These reports are repugnant and those responsible for this gambling pool should be ashamed," said Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman.

Julia Arredondo, a spokeswoman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, called it “unfathomable that anyone could find joy in the pain of others. While they laugh about the violence our communities are experiencing, we’ll keep doing the work to rebuild and recover.”

The State Liquor Authority said in a statement that the betting pool is "not only sickening, but also appears illegal under the Alcoholic Beverage Control law," which prohibits gambling in businesses with a liquor license. 

Members of the liquor authority's multiagency task force said they attempted to conduct an unrelated inspection of The Cliffton this week but were refused entry.

The authority called the bar's refusal "a blatant violation of the law, which alone constitutes grounds for their liquor license to be revoked. This establishment will be charged for the violation we have already observed and can expect to hear from us again.”

State law mandates that all licensed businesses be subject to inspection during business hours by the liquor authority and law enforcement. Refusal to allow an inspection constitutes grounds for revocation of an establishment's business license, officials said.

Brian Neal, owner of The Cliffton, did not respond to requests for comment.

The betting pool showed a "disdain" for human life and was rooted in racism since most fatal shootings in New York City and Chicago occur in minority neighborhoods, said Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri.

"We can't tolerate it," he said, adding that the village's Chamber of Commerce was considering removing The Cliffton as a member.

"All it does is raise the angst and anger of others," Pontieri said of the pool. "To be buying a box to see how many people die is something I cannot fathom. It's not who we are as a community."

The controversy is the second this week in Patchogue. On Monday, Cuomo directed the state Division of Human Rights to investigate the display of a Confederate flag on a Brookhaven Fire Department truck during a parade in the village to honor an ill firefighter.

"I don't want the community to be framed like this," Pontieri said. "But there's no answer for stupid people or people who don't have respect for others." 

The Long Island Chapter of the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence also weighed in, urging State Attorney General Letitia James and the FBI to investigate the bar.

The Cliffton is no stranger to controversy. Last year, it faced widespread criticism after posting a picture on Instagram ridiculing a transgender patron. Neal later apologized and called the post "inappropriate."

With Matthew Chayes

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