As new COVID bar & restaurant restrictions take effect, owners say closing earlier could increase home gatherings


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB-TV) – As new restrictions to effect Friday night for bars, restaurants, and gyms across New York State, business owners say their livelihoods and the livelihoods of their employees are once again threatened. 

“We’re going to lose our careers. Everything we put our blood sweat and tears into,” said Brandon Carr, owner of The Quarter on Virginia Street in Buffalo. 

Carr joined between 20 and 30 other people in front of Buffalo City Hall Friday for a “Save Our Bars” rally. Bar owners, industry workers, and people concerned about small businesses in general hoped to make a statement. 

“We want to communicate and come up with a plan that works, so that’s what our goal is to do today: to say we’re here, we don’t like what you’re doing, and we’re going start fighting back a little,” Carr said regarding why he attended. 

The new 10:00 p.m. closing regulation is the beginning of deja vu for some establishments. Others have lost all or nearly lost all. 

DBGB’s in Allentown never closed a single day until March and was known for being open until 4:00 a.m. 365 days a year. The pandemic put its original location out of business. A smaller version is across the street. 

Gabrielle Mattina used to be an owner. 

“It was open Christmas, New Year’s. It was basically death to the dive bar,” Mattina said. “We don’t want to spread coronavirus, we don’t think it’s a hoax, we know it’s real. But how much can you lose before you have nothing to use?? 

Now, Mattina owns Gypsy Parlor on Grant Street. She did not part take in Friday’s rally but shared with News 4 at the restaurant what the surge in cases means for her business and her employees. 

She says closing at 10:00 p.m. cuts six shifts between bartenders, cooks, and security. 

“It’s such a tough decision being a business owner of whose livelihood gets taken away first,” adding she worries if those workers have enough savings and if unemployment covers their bills. 

Gypsy Parlor, she says, will stay open. She and her father own the building, and Mattina says she’d take cuts herself and work behind the bar if she needed to stay in business, but she knows other businesses owners who pay high commercial rent on Elmwood or Hertel don’t have that luxury. 

Both Mattina and Carr share the same sentiment about the new restrictions. They feel if contact tracing shows the spike in coronavirus cases is due to home gatherings, further restricting bars and restaurants may only make it worse. 

“I’ve already had police call me and show up, I’ve had the SLA do spot checks, I’ve had the COVID task force, the health department. I mean, it doesn’t get any tighter than it is in a restaurant,” Mattina said. “You’re in a house party with no masks on, drinking with 20 people, sharing glasses, hugging, kissing. In a restaurant, you come in, you eat six feet apart, your server is masked and sanitized.” 

“What is going to happen when shut down every bar at 10:00 p.m.? They are going to have more house parties,” Carr said. “When you have restaurants and bars, you’re able to maintain, watch those, regulate those. Make sure tables are six feet apart. Make sure people’s masks are on, make sure we’re safe all around. This is almost very negligent what they did with this rule.” 

Erica Brecher is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.

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