BUFFALO, N.Y. — The 10 p.m. closing time for bars, restaurants with liquor licenses, and gyms across the state went into effect on Friday.
While late night dancing, and drinking alcohol without food, hasn't been allowed since bars reopened after the initial lockdown, bartender Timothy Walton said the industry has seen a new kind of business during the later hours.
“You know it’s taking away essentially a whole new dinner hour that’s been made up,” he said.
Walton said the 10 p.m. closure is another blow to a struggling industry. Hours before the new COVID-19 restriction went into effect, about two dozen bartenders, bar owners, and customers held a 'save our bars' rally in Niagra Square.
Walton said the state is unfairly targeting establishments with liquor licenses.
“We get that there has to be some kind of regulations, you know, to fight off covid," Walton said. "But when you’re saying that there’s problems with house parties and large gatherings at home, why are you going after bars and restaurants that are already checked on every single week and in compliance, enforcing masks and enforcing what they need to do.”
Erie County said most new cases come from private gatherings held in homes. There's no set date for when the 10 p.m. closing time will be lifted.
“We understand they’re hurting, but they’re hurting less than if they were completely shutdown, that’s the alternative,” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said.
Additional restrictions remain, such as all customers must order food with alcohol. Falley Allen bartender Hannah Dwyer said that's led to some new business.
"We offered a great late night menu, we had a couple of sandwiches, we had a couple of our flatbreads on there as well," she said. "The flatbreads were a big hit with people, so it was nice because people that would come in late night that wouldn't ever try our menu they got to try some of our menu, so then it was a nice thing because they were like 'oh the food is great.'"
Some customers at Falley Allen said they have stopped going out late, and appreciate the new restriction given Erie County's uptick in numbers.
"I'm kind of glad they're restricting stuff again, just for people who are high risk," said Grace Galvin of Buffalo.
Dwyer estimated the early last call will cost them a couple hundred dollars a night.
“The fact that we are missing out on a couple hundred dollars, it is a little bit scary, because we do kind of have to tighten up our budgets and stuff,” Dwyer said.
Restaurants can do curbside pick-up for food after 10 p.m.