WARSAW — The Amber Lantern has been seeing a gradual uptick in customers as more people are vaccinated and the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
And that’s good news for Kristi Streamer, who owns the popular tavern and brewery with her husband Tom. As people become vaccinated, they’re becoming more comfortable with visiting area restaurants once again.
But although the loosening of state curfew restrictions is welcome news for bars and restaurants, area owners aren’t exactly clear on how it will affect their operations. Some say they’ll feel no effect, while Streamer says the Amber probably won’t see any impact at the moment.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” she said Wednesday of the loosened restrictions. “For us, because our establishment has so little space, as long as the requirements are for the 6-foot distancing, it’s difficult for us to really capitalize on any of these changes. I think for other places that have a lot more space, it’s probably a huge relief for them.”
Some of the restrictions currently affecting bars and restaurants are slated to end on May 17, when the midnight limit on serving food and beverages in outdoor dining areas will be lifted. The curfew for indoor dining areas will end two weeks later.
Restrictions will also be loosened for catered events.
As of May 17, the 1 a.m. curfew for catered events will be lifted when guests have proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test. The curfew for all catered events will likewise be lifted two weeks after that.
“Lifting these restrictions for restaurants, bars and catering companies will allow these businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic to begin to recover as we return to a new normal in a post-pandemic world,” Cuomo said in a news release. “To be clear: we will only be able to maintain this progress if everyone gets the COVID vaccine.”
It’s currently a matter of finding the balance as people begin to venture out more, while still remaining cautious, Streamer said.
The community has learned that COVID-19 affects people differently, she said. But the overall community has been supportive.
“We’re starting to see some of those customers come in and get things to eat,” she said. “So that has helped ... Right now we’re just staying open late on Friday nights, and I have two employees who are willing to be there so they can provide food. It’s not cost-effective for me to have my kitchen staff there until 11 p.m. or midnight, but I do have some excellent employees that know their way around a kitchen and can cook a decent appetizer, or a sandwich or salad if that’s what people want.
“We’re doing that but just on Fridays,” she said. “Honestly, we haven’t had a huge response to it. I think people are still hesitant.”
At Main St. Pizza Company in Batavia, Manager Chris Barone said the lifting of the curfew in May wouldn’t affect the restaurant.
“The latest we’re open on the weekend is 10 p.m.,” he said. “We just serve beer and wine, we don’t have any mixed drinks or anything, so it probably wouldn’t affect us. Most people are just coming to eat,”
Barone said if business picks up at night, owner Vic Marchese might consider staying open a little later, but not until midnight. Barone said Main St. Pizza was open that late when it first opened, but that was a long time ago.
The current hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Area representatives are calling for the curfews to be loosened further.
“While we are pleased that this long overdue action was finally taken by the Legislature today, there is still much more to be done — including the immediate elimination of the completely arbitrary curfew and capacity restrictions that hurt our bars and restaurants,” said State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-Tonawanda, in statement issued after the announcement.
Cuomo may have announced that his curfew will be lifted in a few weeks, but small businesses can’t afford to wait another day, he said.
“The Legislature should not only immediately repeal these nonsensical, non-scientific orders — we should also fully repeal the Governor’s emergency powers and restore local control to the officials who are best equipped to make decisions for the residents who elected them, and their local economies,” Ortt said.
State Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, also said the executive orders should have been repealed months ago. Earlier this year, he joined a lawsuit challenging the governor’s so-called restaurant curfew, which required bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m.
“This action is long overdue,” he said. “As a co-equal branch of government, the Legislature has a responsibility to exercise checks and balances to ensure no one individual is allowed to overstep the authority of their office. I urge my colleagues to review other executive orders, many of which appear arbitrary and not backed by scientific evidence, and take steps to repeal them.”
Staff Writer Brian Quinn contributed to this article.