BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — For the first time since June, restaurant dining rooms in parts of Western New York will be closed.
Parts of Erie County entered the orange zone on Wednesday. Restaurants in the orange zone cannot do indoor dining. In addition to takeout, outdoor dining will also be allowed, with a maximum of four people to a table. Some restaurants said that's not exactly practical in Western New York in November.
The restriction goes into effect Friday.
D'Avolio in Williamsville is in the orange zone, owner Dan Gagliardo said indoor dining is about half his current business.
“It’s disturbing because we’re just starting to get our feet under us, starting to build up a little bit," Gagliardo said.
A block away at Glen Park Tavern, co-owner Ellie Grenauer estimates the restaurant will lose $10,000-$15,000 a week under the new restrictions. She said business was back up to about 80% of pre-pandemic levels, but dropped again in recent days.
“So we’re constantly losing money, so one week we might lose a few thousand, the next week we make a thousand, and that’s with indoor dining," Grenauer said. "You go to curbside only, and that model, I was barely breaking even you know. So it’s going to be hard to sustain.”
The new restriction puts a renewed importance on outdoor dining, for restaurants able to do it in the cold weather.
Rusty Nickel Brewing Co. owner Dave Johson said the West Seneca brewery's outdoor space has always been important to business, but since the pandemic the patio has been an extra boost. The brewery installed a roof on its pagola last week.
“This year foreseeing what was to come, that area will be enclosed and heated, so people can enjoy the patio for a much longer part of the season,” said Johnson.
Johnson hopes the heaters lining the roof will be up and running next week. He's working to get permits to enclose another section of the patio as well.
The New York State Restaurant Association does not track how many restaurants have closed since the start of the pandemic, but as of September, the National Restaurant Association estimates one in six restaurants in the U.S. closed permanently or long term.
“We need the PPP money now, there's no doubt about it, and if we don’t get it we’re going to have some very difficult times,” Gagliardo said.
Grenauer said nearly all the PPP money went to paying her employees, and she now has to pay them without any assistance.
“We’re going to try and spread it out so everyone can keep their job and be making some money, but I don’t need as much staff for takeout only,” Grenauer said.
One small bright spot, all three restaurant owners said they're now masters at takeout, after relying on it for months.
Restaurants in the yellow zone can do indoor dining, with a maximum of four people to a table.