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Questions surround bars & restaurants in Erie County's Orange Zone ahead of Saturday's Bills game

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Posted at 6:08 PM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 10:10:28-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Much of Erie County was designated an Orange Zone by state officials in November in response to increased COVID-19 positivity rates in the region.

Those Orange Zones restrictions are still in place for bars and restaurants which include: no indoor dining and a four person maximum per table for outdoor dining. A 10 p.m. closure time is also in place across the state.

Due to those restrictions, questions surround the ability of bars and restaurants to serve fans looking to watch the Buffalo Bills take on the Baltimore Ravens Saturday night with kickoff scheduled for 8:15 p.m.

A 10 p.m. closure for bars and restaurants would mean patrons would only be able to watch a portion of the game.

The Erie County Legislature Minority Caucus sent a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday requesting to remove the 10 p.m. closure time for bars and restaurants on Saturday.

The letter says:

"Dear Governor Cuomo:

The Buffalo Bills are having their best season in 25 years and have advanced further in the playoffs to the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs. Their next playoff game will be this Saturday at 8:15 p.m. against the Baltimore Ravens. To say Western New Yorkers are excited about this game would be an understatement. There is a positive energy about the Buffalo Bills that hasn't been seen in decades and it comes at a time we badly need it as a community. Their advancement in the playoffs also provides an opportunity for Western New York restaurant and bar owners who have been struggling. Currently, State imposed Covid-19 regulations close most restaurants and bars in Erie County at 1 O p.m. This arbitrary closure time will not allow bars and restaurants to show the full game, which may stretch toward or beyond midnight.

We are writing to ask that you immediately amend your executive order to remove the 10 p.m. closure deadline for bars and restaurants in the "orange zone" in Erie County on this upcoming Saturday, January 16, 2021."

The letter was signed by legislators Joseph C. Lorigo, Christopher D. Greene, Frank J. Todaro and John J. Mills.

The City of Buffalo partnered with Chippewa bars and restaurants last weekend to host a socially distant outdoor Bills viewing party. When asked for comment on if the city would allow another watch party a spokesperson said:

“We are pursuing conversations with the State and County to determine what is viable.”

Rec Room and Soho hope to welcome 250 fans back to Chippewa St. for food, drinks, and big screen TVs. Saturday's viewing party was Rec Room's first business since October, according to partner Chris Ring.

“For our business it was huge," Ring said. "I mean we haven’t been working for the last two months, our staff have been unemployed, so to put 20 something people back to work again, kind of get that shot in the arm of having people return back down to Chippewa and kind of feel that energy that we had pre-Covid it was exciting to see.”

Ring hopes the fact that fans are allowed back at the stadium means they can also be back on Chippewa for the entirety of the game.

“It’s gotta be an all or nothing, I mean nobody’s gonna come all the way down here for the first half and then have to pack up and drive all the way home and miss a portion of the game," Ring said. "Plus, there’s an absurd amount of expenses that kind of go into shutting down the street, TV screens, security, just the setup in general. So we really need the four five hours of dining experience to kind of help cover the expenses."

7 Eyewitness News reached out to Cuomo's office to see if he is considering revising the 10 p.m. executive order. All businesses with a liquor license in the state are subject to the executive order.