Walden Galleria restaurants share concerns over not reopening malls

Posted at 12:27 AM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 00:40:06-04

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Reopening indoor dining rooms at a limited capacity for the Western New York region could begin as soon as Tuesday. Two restaurants at the Walden Galleria are counting down the days. From sanitizing to social distancing, the eateries are preparing to let customers back inside at a limited capacity.

“It’s tough. Is it worth it? It is worth it to get our business back up and running,” Chris Bolyard, General Manager of World of Beer Buffalo, said. In March, World of Beer Buffalo shut down as COVID-19 began to spread.

“Business was booming and going up and then it just happened,” Bolyard said.

The restaurant started offering take-out last month and outdoor dining this week.

“It’s looking up as far as sales, but it’s still definitely not even close as to where we’d like to be,” Bolyard said.

On the other side of the mall, The Melting Pot has remained closed since March 15th. Owner Jim Materese laid off 45 employees.

“And everything has just kind of been on hold. Just waiting for guidance to figure out what’s next,” Materese said in a phone interview.

Although both have exterior entrances, mall traffic drives at least half of the revenue for both restaurants. Materese and Bolyard are concerned with not knowing when indoor shopping malls can resume.

“I’m going to say that we will be announcing as soon as we are able to when we believe it’s safe that they’ll be able to reopen,” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said Thursday.

“The mall being able to open would help our business tremendously,” Bolyard said.

Another concern comes with reports of an extended U.S.- Canada border closure, which ultimately halts the Canadian shopping base.

“It’s another layer of challenges that keep our seats empty,” Materese said.

As the two restaurants prepare to reopen indoor dinning, Materese and Bolyard are still looking for answers from the state.

“It’s very frustrating to be able to plan and execute a reopening strategy when it’s just overnight,” Bolyard said.

Materese added: “I feel bad for my staff because a lot of them are having questions about how many tables are we going to get? Is it going to be busy? Are we going to be making money? The answer is we just have to open and wait and see. Nobody knows.”

A Walden Galleria spokesperson said there are safety measures in place for when the mall will be allowed to reopen.