Gala ignites political dispute over COVID-19 restrictions

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This image provided by the New York Young Republican Club, shows U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla, foreground right, as he poses with attendees at the organization's 108th Annual Gala in Jersey City, N.J., on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The New Jersey restaurant that hosted the political gala put on by the New York Republican Club was ordered temporarily closed Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, over potential violations of coronavirus guidelines. (Courtesy New York Republican Club via AP)

A New Jersey restaurant that hosted a political gala put on by a New York Republican club was ordered temporarily closed Friday over potential violations of coronavirus guidelines.

Photos and video posted on Twitter showed dozens of maskless partiers at the New York Young Republican Club event Thursday night in Jersey City, some of whom tweeted taunting messages to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Among the attendees was U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, and conservative political activist James O’Keefe.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a Democrat, said in an emailed statement that the event at the Maritime Parc restaurant in Liberty State Park was “an egregious violation” of state coronavirus guidelines and that he was ordering the restaurant temporarily closed.

“In Jersey City we take Covid enforcement very seriously, and this event appears to be an egregious violation of the governor’s executive orders, including capacity limitations and mandatory mask wearing,” Fulop wrote. “This event blatantly disregards the protections put in place to safeguard the community from further contagion and has put Jersey City and countless others at serious risk.”

No one answered the phone at the restaurant. Gaetz didn’t respond to a text message Friday.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, also a Democrat, has tightened restrictions on indoor gatherings recently in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Indoor dining is restricted to 25% of a restaurant’s capacity, and no indoor dining is allowed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, with exceptions for events such as religious ceremonies.

Travelers from out of state are urged to quarantine for 14 days, but Murphy has said the state is relying on the honor system for compliance.