Assembly Republicans, restaurant and bar owners call for end to Gov. Cuomo’s arbitrary mandates

ALBANY, NY —  Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I-Pulaski), restaurant and bar owners from across the state and members of the Republican Conference have again called for the repeal of two of Gov. Cuomo’s Executive Orders that pertain to the operation of the state’s restaurant and bar establishments.

“While Gov. Cuomo lifted curfews for pool halls, bowling alleys, casinos and fitness centers last week, he unilaterally continues to extend the curfew for restaurants and bars – an arbitrary measure that he has provided no justification on,” said Leader Barclay. “The governor is now legally required to inform legislative leaders and committee chairs of any extension to existing pandemic-related Executive Orders. The thousands of small business owners operating under these ridiculous constraints are fed up, and they deserve better than what they’re getting from Albany.”

“The governor’s contact tracing data does not support the need to be so restrictive on restaurants and bars,” said Assemblyman Christopher S. Friend (R,C,I-Big Flats), Ranking Republican on the Committee on Economic Development. “The curfew has been a great imposition to these struggling businesses that are trying to recover from the pandemic shutdown. These one-size-fits-all rules would have expired at the end of March. Unfortunately, the Legislature extended the governor’s powers indefinitely. People have antibodies and now we have vaccines. It is time for these restrictive rules to end.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, since the start of the pandemic, it is estimated more than 8,000 restaurants have closed their doors in New York. The curfew and food requirements have no basis in logic or data, putting additional establishments at risk of closing if they are not allowed to expand business hours and other COVID-19 restrictions. The Legislature can, and should, repeal these restrictive mandates immediately.

“We are short staffed, working harder and losing money. We get yelled at by customers all day long. I am constantly worried that someone will not have a mask on or do something else that will get us fined,” said Tess Collins, Owner, McGeary’s Pub (Albany, NY). “We have to call ‘last call’ on food orders at 10:15 p.m. I work all day and night, and have to kick sober, nice people out of the bar at 10:55 p.m. The food law and the time restraints have caused me to bleed my loan money. The food law alone has put thousands of businesses out because they do not have kitchens. I am worried about the future of this industry.”

“Restaurants and bars were told to shut down, then make adjustments and completely change how we operate. We did all of those things, but we’re still facing restrictions that have nothing to do with public health,” said Caren Paterniti, Owner, The Howling Rooster (Tonawanda, NY). “Curfews and regulations hurt our bottom line and most of us are at the end of our rope. Restrictions have been lifted for other businesses and industries, when is it our turn? We’ve waited long enough, and people should not have to fight this hard for the right to earn a living.”

“The arbitrary curfew put in place by the governor has no basis in science, has proven unnecessary and harms restaurants like ours for no apparent reason. Indoor dining has been permitted since June, and since then we have been able to safely and successfully operate at 50 percent of our maximum capacity until 4 a.m. with no problems. Operating during those late night hours was vital to our ability to keep our doors open,” said Mike McElwee of the Bay Shore Restaurant Committee. “The ridiculous curfews enacted in November forced us to turn away many guests who otherwise could have been served later in the evening after our other patrons cleared out. The governor’s order is actually making our guests less safe. Allowing pool halls, bowling alleys and casinos to operate without a curfew while we are forced to close early is just another blow to our industry that is already on the brink of disaster.”

Earlier this week, members of the Conference also penned a letter to Speaker Carl Heastie and colleagues formally requesting copies of the legally-required notices from the governor’s office and Commissioner of Health to the Legislature regarding the extension of these executive orders. A copy of the letter is available here.

Last month, Assembly and Senate Republicans introduced joint resolutions to overturn Gov. Cuomo’s arbitrary mandates that have unnecessarily hurt the state’s restaurants and bars; however, to date, Assembly Republicans have yet to receive resolution numbers for either measure. Until Assembly Democrats fulfill this legislative obligation, the resolutions are prevented from going through committee or advancing to the Assembly Chamber for a vote.