Bars, restaurants thankful for extra hour of business as Gov. Cuomo extends curfew

Legislative Gazette photo by Emily Mortensen

Restaurant and bar owners throughout the state can exhale a little bit as Governor Andrew Cuomo extended the bar and restaurant curfew last week following his gradual loosening of suffocating restrictions throughout January.

Cuomo’s most recent change to restaurant restrictions extends the industry’s curfew from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. allowing restaurant and bar owners to seat a final wave of customers starting Feb. 14.

“We’re grateful for another step forward and we thank Governor Cuomo for listening to our members and continuing to work alongside the industry to reopen,” said Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association. 

The lifting of restrictions comes as the nation has seen an overall downturn in the number of COVID cases since January. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts “the number of newly reported COVD-19 cases will decrease over the next four weeks.”

In January, Cuomo announced the reopening of New York City restaurants for indoor dining which began February 12. This decision followed a gradual lift on restrictions throughout the state including expansion of indoor dining capacity.

Senate Republicans also showed support for the industry in late January, releasing a package of legislation to temporarily exempt restaurants from high unemployment insurance fees and food and beverage taxes, amongst a longer list of protections.

Restaurants have been struggling to get back on their feet as the pandemic continues, and the winter months bring harsh weather. 

A September 2020 report from The Office of the NYS Comptroller indicated that restaurants and bars have faced steep declines in revenue over the course of the pandemic.  Reports have shown that 87% of New York City restaurants were not able to pay all or part of their bills in August of 2020. 

Other estimates from the Comptroller’s office indicated that from September onward, “one-third to one-half of the City’s restaurants and bars that existed prior to the pandemic may close permanently.” 

In support of the struggling industry, State Assemblyman Jarett Gandolfo, representing Assembly District 7 on Long Island, drafted legislation intending to override Cuomo’s curfew restrictions in early February.

Gandolfo said extending the restaurant curfew to midnight would act as “a lifeline for the struggling industry.” 

Those struggling in the bar and restaurant industry can now increase their profits serving the last wave of customers between 10:00 pm and 11:00 pm. Fleischut added, “after a year of incredible economic hardships, every guest counts right now.”