NY Bar Investigated for Taking Illegal Bets on Labor Day Weekend Shootings

  • The Cliffton was running a pool on whether NY City or Chicago would suffer the most shootings
  • The Patchogue bar captioned an Instagram post ‘Let the shooting sprees begin!’
  • It also recently refused entry to COVID-19 inspectors, which could lose it its liquor license
  • A public apology was issued in 2019 after The Cliffton made fun of a transgender patron
  • The bar has apologized for the betting pool, saying its intent was to raise gun violence awareness
map zooming in on Patchogue in New York state
The Cliffton, a notorious dive bar in Long Island, has drawn the attention of the authorities after it posted a Labor Day weekend shooting-death betting sheet on social media. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

The Cliffton posted pool on Instagram

Downtown Patchogue bar The Cliffton is under investigation after illegally taking bets on Labor Day weekend shootings in Chicago and New York City.  

The Cliffton, a self-labeled dive bar in Long Island, posted the shooting pool on its private Instagram account, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. It shared images of a paper grid on which handwritten names of bettors appeared, including Eileen, Dino, Sarge, Neal, and Alyssa. Patrons could wager on the likelihood of more shootings happening in New York City or Chicago over Labor Day weekend. The social media post was captioned:

Let the shooting sprees begin!”

The not-for-profit Brady: United Against Gun Violence group shared images of the betting box and accompanying rules and definitions in a Facebook post condemning the activity:

Local bar in patchogue, the Clifton bar is taking bets on shooting sprees against our democratic elected officials this…

Posted by Brady Chapter to Prevent Gun Violence Long Island NY on Saturday, August 29, 2020

The betting sheet defined Labor Day as 12:01am on September 5 through September 7 at 11:59am. It also said official shooting deaths would be taken from the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Bettors were able to buy four boxes, each of which predicted a shooting-death total. The cash prize winnings were unspecified.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot were highlighted on the betting sheet, as if they were competing football coaches.

Bar draws fire, again

Under New York’s alcohol and beverage law, apart from a few exceptions, betting at establishments with a liquor license is prohibited. The wagering in this particular case was “not only sickening, but also appears illegal under the Alcoholic Beverage Control law,” the State Liquor Authority (SLA) stated in response to The Cliffton’s shooting pool.

The SLA also said that, aside from the illegal gambling allegations, The Cliffton recently refused entry to multiagency COVID-19 task force inspectors. “This establishment will be charged for the violation we have already observed and can expect to hear from us again,” said the SLA. This offense alone could strip the bar of its liquor license.

In its Facebook post, the Brady: United Against Gun Violence group said it had alerted the FBI and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “This is the kind of place that needs to be boycotted,” said Brady’s Long Island chapter.

buying a box to see how many people die”

Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri said he could not comprehend how people were “buying a box to see how many people die”. “It’s foolish at best, disgusting at its worst […] it isn’t what we are about,” he told a local TV news station. Gov. Cuomo’s spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, responded to the incident, saying: “The reports are repugnant and those responsible for this gambling pool should be ashamed.”

In April 2019, The Cliffton issued a public apology following another controversial Instagram post that saw the bar poke fun at a transgender patron.

A bloody summer

Gun violence has seen a dramatic surge over the summer. Reports state that shooting incidents have tripled in New York City compared to the same time last year. As of September 2, New York has suffered 1,003 shootings while Chicago has had 2,749 cases. The Cliffton was basing its shooting bet pool on these two cities.

Bar owner Brian Neal has not returned a request for comment. However, an apology has appeared on The Cliffton’s private Instagram account, stating that the “game was an attempt at raising awareness of the disturbing rise in gun violence across the nation.”