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State Needs To Help Restaurant Owners With Capacity Limits

For Tom Constantine and Jamestown’s Cherry Lounge, area diners have adapted to the state’s COVID-19 dining curfews.

Constantine isn’t likely to stay open later, preferring to open earlier on the weekends. What would help Constantine more than staying open later is being able to have more people in his restaurant. Removing the stipulation that people have to order food in order to have a drink would help more than simply allowing more hours too.

The same is true for Gary Visosky at the Belle-View East, Bill Steen at Steener’s Pub in Bemus Point, Jeff Waddington at Waddington’s Tavern in Falconer, Michele Turner at Group Ther-Happy in Lakewood, and Dave Coughlin, manager of Coughlan’s Pub in Fredonia.

In March, the Michigan state Senate passed legislation that states there could be no restrictions on indoor dining capacity if the statewide positivity rate or the percentage of hospital beds used to treat coronavirus patients was under 3% for at least seven straight days. The capacity limit would be 50% if the positivity or hospital rates were at least 3% but below 10%. Occupancy would drop to 25% if one of the rates got above 10% for seven consecutive days. Food establishments would close if a rate exceeded 15%. A similar phased system would apply to banquets halls, hotel ballrooms and other event venues, based on the number of people per square foot. The Michigan House of Representatives has not considered the bill yet and it’s unsure if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would sign it.

It’s an interesting proposition that beats New York’s system, which is really no system at all. Gov. Andrew Cuomo still has the ability to impose limits on restaurants after legislative Democrats wimped out on a repeal of Cuomo’s executive authority. Passing a bill tying restaurant limitations to COVID-19 metrics at least puts the ball in the community’s court to help their community’s restaurants. A community that does what it can to limit spread of COVID-19 can help its restaurants flourish. Regions where COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire would face limitations.

Talking to our area’s restaurant owners makes it clear that the governor’s recent goodwill gesture is as empty as an unfilled glass on Tom Constantine’s bar. The state must find a way to help restaurant owners gradually increase capacity limits.

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