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NYS: Indoor dining can resume in orange zones

Breakfast at James Brown's place on Culver Road.
James Brown
Breakfast at James Brown's place on Culver Road.

New York state has decided to allow all bars and restaurants in orange zones statewide to resume indoor dining at 50% capacity. That decision is in reaction to a court ruling, allowing nearly 100 establishments in Buffalo to do that.

“We are reviewing the decision,” said Kumiki Gibson, counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.. “While that process is ongoing, to ensure uniformity and fairness, all restaurants operating in orange zones can now operate under rules governing yellow zones.”

Kelly Metras, president of the Rochester Chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, responded, asking the state “to continue to let the goals of uniformity and fairness govern all restrictions for restaurants going forward.”

Metras owns orange zone restaurants Salena’s and Nox.

The question of fairness is common among restaurant owners since Cuomo’s micro-cluster initiative was introduced in the fall. The initiative labels ZIP codes by color based on rates of COVID-19 cases. Large swaths of Monroe County remain orange including much of the city of Rochester. Indoor dining has been closed in orange zones since just before Thanksgiving. But minutes away in yellow zone suburbs like Henrietta, indoor dining continued. 

The news came with a mix of joy and caution for Chuck Cerankosky who owns a number of orange zone bars and restaurants including Good Luck.

“It's not perfect but it's a huge step in the right direction,” said Cerankosky. 

He spent much of Thursday scrambling to meet with his partners and staff. Cerankosky said restaurants are a lot like trains, you don’t start at full speed immediately. He said his staff has to be recalled, supplies have to be ordered and precautions must be taken in order to keep COVID-19 cases connected to restaurants low. 

“We’re gonna look like boneheads if we open back up and the next batch of data comes out and the number is higher than that or something,” Cerankosky said. “We got to do our part in managing the spread as well.”

Kelly Bush, who owns several bars including Marshall Street Bar and Grill which is in an orange zone, said she’ll likely reopen but won’t rush into things.

“We took our time when we reopened the first time,” said Bush. “We’ll make sure we have all the information and make sure that our staff has the information and our staff feels safe. And once we know that we can be safe doing that we will take the next step in reopening.”

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.