Restaurants and state fail to compromise on COVID-19 restrictions, now decision rests on judge

Posted at 5:48 PM, Jan 04, 2021

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Approximately 70 restaurants are now suing New York State and officials, hoping to have indoor dining reopen. A week ago, a New York State Supreme Court judge said the state and the restaurants had to reach an agreement Monday, but that did not happen.

"Although I think there was some good faith effort on both sides, the state said they are not willing to let restaurants open. If we can't get past that hurdle, there's no real room to compromise anything further," Corey Hogan, partner and owner of HoganWillig Attorneys at Law, said, "We're not asking to go back and do things any way we want. All of the restrictions that the state actually said, 'Here is what you need to do to be safe,' we're willing to do all that."

Instead, restaurant doors remain closed, despite the fact that not a single COVID case has been traced back to any of the restaurants named in the lawsuit.

"Thousands of contact tracing and they show at the end of the day 1.4% percent of viruses can be traced back. In our case, they haven't shown one single one," Hogan said.

7 Eyewitness News reached out to the state but did not hear back. However in December, Governor Cuomo, citing the CDC, said exposures at non-essential indoor settings posed preventable risks.

There's fear that if the restaurant shut down continues, many businesses will not survive.

"Half of these restaurants are going to go out of business if they're kept closed for another month," Hogan said.

"We really have been talking about an exit strategy. That's how far this has driven us," Paul Santora, the owner of Santora's Pizza Pub and Grill, said.

The effects restaurants closing are widespread.

"What about the income that our employees missed out on. What about the products that were buying from our food providers or our beverage distributors. That all matters a lot. The spiral effect of these shut downs is massive," Greg Duell, owner of Duff's in the Eastern Hills Mall, said.

The case will be back in court on Friday. Restaurant owners are hoping the judge rules in favor of reopening indoor dining that day.