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NYC party ship owners arrested, charged with breaking coronavirus orders on 'booze cruise'

The city's sheriff took action against the Liberty Belle for an illicit weekend bash with 172 people on board after receiving a tip from a local politician.
Sheriff's vehicles parked next to the Liberty Belle in lower Manhattan.
Sheriff's vehicles parked next to the Liberty Belle in lower Manhattan.New York City Sheriff

Owners of a New York City party boat were arrested after taking 172 guests out on a cruise — without a liquor license and serving alcohol indoors — in violation of emergency coronavirus regulations, officials said Monday.

The New York Sheriff's Office got a tip from the office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer about the Liberty Belle's cruise out of Pier 36 in Manhattan on Saturday night. Deputies greeted the vessel as it pulled in at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, officials said.

The operators do not have an alcohol license and guests told deputies they were served cocktails on board, New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito told NBC News.

"What we confirmed is that individuals were drinking on the boat, people were drinking indoors on the vessel," Fucito said.

Indoor door dining is currently barred in New York City, under emergency health codes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The ship's owners and the event's promoters, Ronny Vargas and Alex Sauzo, were both arrested and each charged for allegedly violating state liquor codes and the city's health order. They were released at about 3 a.m. on Sunday, according to Fucito.

"Operating a booze cruise in the middle of a pandemic is irresponsible and in complete disregard with COVID safety measures," Brewer said in a statement on Monday. "Reckless socializing isn’t worth putting people's lives at risk, and now is not the time to let our guard down."

Sauzo, of Floral Park, could not be reached for comment.

Vargas, a 35-year-old resident of Garden City, declined comment on advice from his lawyer.