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Restaurants prepare for new round of COVID regulations



Gates, ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester area officials declared they were ready to enforce new restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus, as local businesses worried they’d be a painful blow to their sales, but one they’d accept to keep the situation from getting worse.

“We’ve had some complaints,” granted Greece Fire Marshall Don Bowers, who’s been handling enforcement of COVID rules.

Bowers estimated most businesses have been complying, or have quickly cooperated with no tickets or fines necessary if they’re called out for any violations.

And he says a new round of rules should go over smoothly.

But at the Marshall Street Bar and Grill and the Union Tavern in Rochester, owner Kelly Bush, Chapter President of the state Restaurant Association, says the new standards will hurt already struggling small businesses.

“Canceling reservations for this weekend,” she said. “We’ve had groups that were five or six for a table.”

As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus go up across the state, Governor Andrew Cuomo has now declared parts of Erie, Onondaga and Monroe Counties as coronavirus Yellow Zones. Public gatherings now can’t be bigger than 25 people, bars and restaurants can’t seat more than four to a table and must close by midnight.

Bowers says local officials are still waiting for official guidelines but communities like Greece are ready.

“We will follow whatever the fine print says,” he promised. “If it says four people to a table, that’s not much more than we are doing now, like having the people at 50%.”

But Bush says that could hit businesses like hers hard.

“A family of five, six, seven, can’t go out to eat together,” she said. “We aren’t encouraging large gatherings at bars and restaurants right now anyway. But a group of six people, that have all been spending time together and trust each other, they can’t go out anymore. So essentially that’s going to be a hit for us.”

Bowers reports his enforcement has ended up largely being a matter of educating people.

Bush says bars and restaurants understand all too well that if the COVID-19 numbers don’t go down, Monroe County could end up an Orange Zone with nothing but takeout service allowed for many of them, which she says doesn’t bring in enough money for long term survival, so they’re taking every measure they can.

“There are a lot of restaurants that are doing a really great job,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of things happening outside of that. There are house parties and gatherings that are contributing to a lot of the numbers as well. To think that everything we’ve worked for and put all of our money into is over, or could be over at any time, it is really heartbreaking.”