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Buffalo lawmakers likely to lift usual rules for expanded outside dining

Mike Desmond

The Buffalo Common Council wants to give a break to many local bars and restaurants by changing the rules for outdoor eating and drinking.

Shoulder-to-shoulder eating and drinking is going to be a no-no when New York gets into Phase 3 of re-opening, with the continuing of social distancing from quarantine to sort-of open. That is when bars and restaurants can move beyond take-out food and alcohol.

An alliance of councilmembers wants to waive the usual rules for expanded outdoor dining and give the proprietors a break for this one year. Councilmember Joel Feroleto said the goal is to help make up for having fewer seats and bar spaces.

"Since the capacity will be reduced, if they add more tables outside, they have a much better chance of being profitable and Western New York restaurants are extremely important to the economy here," he said. "There's over 50,000 people that work in the food service industry and it has a really big impact on the economy."

Feroleto said beyond just the establishments, there is further spinoff to suppliers.

"The restaurant owners and managers and employees, they're purchasing a lot of  things from other small businesses," he said. "They're buying food from local farmers. They're getting their linens cleaned at local dry cleaners. They're buying flowers for the restaurant at a local florist. So this has a tremendous impact on our economy."

He said if the standard rules are applied, it would probably be September before outside space could be added.

"A restaurant owner would have to apply at the City Clerk's Office, go to a number of hearings and this process takes a very long time," he said. "It would be at least a month and, right now, the Council is not having public hearings. So if a restaurateur wanted to add seats outside, they probably wouldn't be able to do so until September."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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