Local reaction has been mostly favorable to the state legislature’s repeal of the midnight food and beverage service curfew and the additional requirement by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to purchase food along with alcohol — with some hailing the news while others say it will have, at best, a negligible impact on their business.
The bigger concern, they say, is increasing the capacity they can serve.
“While I am thrilled to see the executive orders on restaurants being lifted, it is a shame it took so long to do so. The Assembly Majority has finally joined us to pass a resolution repealing the requirement to purchase food with alcohol and the governor also has announced his intentions to repeal the curfews and limited capacities on businesses,” said Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-101, New Hartford. “I do hope they will join us in our call for having the curfews and capacity limits lifted sooner than the governor intends. However, this is a step in the right direction to helping our state heal after such a terrible pandemic, and I am glad to see that being done. I hope in due time we can continue to make progress to getting our state back open so we can truly begin to recover.”
“This is great for area businesses to get back to normal,” said Carrie Moulton, owner of Stockdales Bar & Grill at 103 River St., Oriskany. “If we could open at full capacity, that would be even better.”
The bar-restaurant owner said bars were also losing money by requiring patrons to purchase food along with alcohol. “Some people wouldn’t even come in because of it,” she said.
Brian Gagne, owner of CPJ’s at 1321 Floyd Ave., agreed that the lift on the food-alcohol requirement will help build business.
“Here we’re at 58 weeks and three days, and people would still come in and say they didn’t know they had to order food with their drinks,” said Gagne. “Removing that (mandate) would be a benefit to bars.”
However, because his business is so small, Gagne said he fears removing that stipulation may even hurt his business in a way.
“I may lose money because I’m so small, because you won’t have the mandatory food sale,” he said. “It had to be something on your menu according to the state Liquor Authority, so we did popcorn at first but we were told it had to be something ‘substantial.’ Then we did a hotdog, but it wasn’t on the menu, so we had to add it as a special and got away with that. It got really confusing.”
As for the curfew lift and increased capacity, however, Gagne said that really won’t benefit his restaurant.
“The curfew lift just helps bars, but no one else because social distancing and masks” are still required, he said. “It’s really a ‘non-thing’ until the social distancing requirement is removed.”
The governor said catered events can resume at residences beginning May 3 above the state’s residential gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, as long as the events are staffed by a professional, licensed caterer, permitted by the respective locality or municipality, and strictly adhere to health and safety guidance, including social and event gathering limits, masks and social distancing.
Also on May 3, the guidance for dancing among attendees at catered events will be aligned with neighboring states, replacing fixed dance zones for each table with social distancing and masks.
Capacity boosted for gyms
The governor also announced that capacities would be increased throughout several industries that have proven to safely reopen in accordance with the state’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, starting May 15:
Gyms and fitness centers outside of New York City will increase from 33 to 50% capacity. Casinos and gaming facilities will increase from 25 to 50% capacity. Offices will increase from 50 to 75% capacity.
Hank Leo, CEO of the YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley, said the increase in capacity for athletic facilities and gyms is good news.
“The YMCA is extremely pleased to hear of the increase in capacity for gyms from New York State, from the mandated 33 to 50 percent. We know that people who are healthy have a better chance of fighting the virus and the more our members can return to working out, socializing with friends, and exercising in groups, the better it is for spirit, mind and body,” said Leo. “As I serve among my colleagues in the New York State Alliance of YMCAs, with 38 Ys represented, we know that we have done an outstanding job of keeping our members and staff safe, following all of the governor’s guidelines and recommendations wholeheartedly.”
Collectively, with nearly 3 million visits statewide, there continues to be a strong case to be made that YMCAs limited the exposure and positivity rates, the CEO said.
“Locally in Rome, and Oneida, we have had zero cases that originated at our Ys, and only a small few of those with exposure,” he said. “The increased capacity is wonderful news. We hope next, that pools are also allowed to increase in capacity, which will affect hundreds of our members.”
On April 26, Cuomo announced that spectator capacity at large-scale outdoor event venues, including professional and collegiate sports and live performing arts and entertainment, will increase from 20 to 33 percent beginning May 19. This increase will coincide with the previously announced increase in large-scale indoor event venue capacity. Social distancing, masks, health screenings and all other state health and safety protocols remain in effect.