Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation to try to overturn Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders and extend the closing times on bars and restaurants to midnight.
This week, Sen. Phil Boyle, R-Bay Shore, has joined Assemblyman Jarett Gandolfo in introducing legislation (S.5880/A.5409) to push back the restaurant and bar curfew from 11 p.m. to midnight.
The Republican lawmakers say the curfew has “devastated” the hospitality industry and led to an increase in household gatherings resulting from people leaving restaurants, and congregating, without social distancing, in private homes.
The Boyle-Gandolfo bill “authorizes the legislature to modify or amend any executive order by concurrent resolution or other legislative action, and amends Executive Order 202 to permit restaurants to remain open until midnight,” according to the bill text.
“Restaurant and tavern owners have spent thousands of dollars and gone to great lengths to ensure that COVID-19 safety protocols are closely followed in their establishments. Despite these efforts, the Governor has refused to allow restaurants to reopen a few hours more – so they can safely accommodate more customers and save their businesses from going under,” Boyle said.
Cuomo announced last week that, beginning April 5, the 11 p.m. curfew currently in place for casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, pool halls, gyms and fitness centers will be lifted. However, he said then the 11 p.m. curfew for food and beverage establishments and the 12 a.m. curfew for catered events will remain in effect.
He did say both curfews will be evaluated in late-April.
“Despite data clearly showing that only 1.4% of COVID-19 cases can be traced back to restaurants and taverns, Governor Cuomo is still not budging. I am confident that we can ensure the safety of New Yorkers while preventing further collapse of the important hospitality industry,” Boyle said.
Senate and Assembly Republicans held a press conference this Monday, March 22, to discuss legislation they would overturn the “arbitrary” curfew placed on the bar and restaurant industry since last November.
Various Republican lawmakers spoke at the conference sharing their disdain for how the curfew is affecting businesses throughout the state. Those who were in attendance included Senate Republican Leader Robert Ortt, Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay and many lawmakers including those who have been actively voicing their concerns for these issues this year.
Earlier this year Assemblyman Gandolfo, who was present at the press conference, released weekly statements and drafted legislation concerning the bar and restaurant curfew and strict mandates.
“The 11 p.m. restaurant curfew and food requirements have no basis in logic or data. Are we really supposed to believe that casinos and pool halls are safe from COVID after 11 p.m., but not restaurants? Or that having a cheeseburger on the table keeps us safe from the virus? If the Governor refuses to lift these nonsensical rules, the Legislature can and should repeal them immediately,” Gandolfo said.
Last November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.74 which imposed a curfew of 10 p.m. on many businesses throughout the state including bars and restaurants. In February of this year, he extended the curfew to 11 p.m., and just last week, lifted it completely for gyms, fitness centers, casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys and billiard halls beginning April 5. Restaurants, however, are being held to a different standard with no apparent explanation as they await a “reevaluation” next month.
In early March, state Senate and Assembly members voted to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers which allowed him to impose mandates and policies on the state over the course of the pandemic.
“There are still egregious mandates in place that have absolutely no scientific basis. These arbitrary rules remain in effect at the whim of one man — our embattled Governor — and they continue to harm our small businesses,” Ortt said. “I’m hopeful the majority will bring our commonsense proposal to the floor and join us in providing some relief to our bars and restaurants who have been devastated by the pandemic.”
Restaurants throughout the state are struggling to stay afloat. Since the beginning of the year saw steadily decreasing numbers of COVID deaths and new cases, and an increasing number of those vaccinated, Cuomo has made changes to allow restaurants more revenue. Restaurants throughout the state are now allowed 75% capacity, with those in New York City at 50%.
Though restaurants have been thankful for these changes, they have not been enough according to the New York State Restaurant Association. Surveys conducted in January by the association have shown that restaurants are not hopeful for a quick recovery.
The surveys showed that “27 percent of New York (bar and restaurant) operators say they will ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ be closed within 3 months if there are no additional relief packages from the federal government.”
Many GOP lawmakers echoed these concerns at the press conference.
“Our small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy and the heart and soul of our communities, have suffered greatly during this pandemic,” said Senator Alexis Weik, R-Sayville. “These businesses are major employers in our communities and often the driving force to bring people to our business districts.”
New York state Republicans have been making numerous efforts to allow the bar and restaurant industry to increase revenue in past months. Earlier in March, the New York State Senate Republican Conference introduced a resolution (B477) to rescind Cuomo’s mandate that requires bars and restaurants to exclusively sell alcoholic beverages with the sale of food. Despite their efforts, this resolution has not yet been voted on.
As state lawmakers continue to make moves toward removing restaurant restrictions, the industry can begin to recover from it’s pandemic losses.