A local bar/restaurant owner weighs in on new COVID-19 restrictions in Erie County’s Yellow Zone

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(WIVB) – The new COVID-19 regulations imposed on bars and restaurants in Erie County’s “Yellow Zone” limit customers to 50 percent capacity- only four customers per table- and those establishments must close by midnight.

The food and drink sector has already gotten squeezed by novel coronavirus restrictions, but many of those businesses have found novel ways of surviving the pandemic.

The business owners we talked to say the larger establishments will find a way- but the smaller ones are in for a rough ride.

Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill is just a few days from opening a third location at the Walden Galleria, in the former Gordon Biersch location.

Owner Paul Santora says they will follow all the rules, but he feels the restaurant business is being punished because it’s not their establishments causing the spread.

“There’s no linking it to anything else- they have this data, and the restrictions should be accompanied by the data, it should not just be a blanket situation,” Santora said.

Santora told us the new restaurant will have dividers separating customers at the bar and the tables will be properly distanced- and if they’re not done by Thursday, it will all be takeout.

“We are going to start with some takeout, possibly, and then move into service or just go all the way,” he said. “We are going to see how this plays out.”

The food and beverage industry has been hurt severely by the pandemic- and Santora says government officials should be targeting those who are contributing more to the spread such as informal get-togethers and parties.

“They are hurting not only the industry, but they are hurting the economy,” Santora said. “We have servers, we have cooks, we have bartenders- all those people are just not going to be able to make the money, and we will be cutting back because they won’t go out.”

The economic hardship of the food and beverage industry has become so dire during the pandemic, that observers have said the government has to provide targeted assistance or the consequences could be disastrous.

Some have estimated 50 percent of the businesses in New York could disappear unless they get some kind of relief.

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