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Erie County lawsuit prompts state to allow indoor dining in NY orange zones

Mike Desmond / WBFO News

New York State has decided to allow all bars and restaurants in orange zones statewide to resume indoor dining at 50% capacity. That decision is in reaction to a court ruling allowing nearly 100 establishments in Buffalo to do that.

“We are reviewing the decision. While that process is ongoing, to ensure uniformity and fairness, all restaurants operating in orange zones can now operate under rules governing yellow zones," said Kumiki Gibson, counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "We disagree with the court's decision and its impact on public health, as Federal CDC data clearly demonstrates indoor dining increases COVID-19 spread. From the start of this pandemic, the state has acted based on facts and the advice of public health experts, and we will continue that approach.''

Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association said the court decision and state decision "dropping the orange zone distinction will certainly provide relief for restaurants in some parts of the state." However, she noted that New York City restaurants remain closed for indoor dining, despite numbers below many of the regions in designated micro-cluster zones. 

"We urge the Governor to open all restaurants for indoor dining," she said. "We do agree with what the Governor said recently: We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open.”

The news came with a mix of joy and caution for Chuck Cerankosky who owns a number of orange zone bars and restaurants, including Good Luck in Rochester.

“It's not perfect, but it's a huge step in the right direction,” said Cerankosky. 

He spent much of Thursday scrambling to meet with his partners and staff. Cerankosky said restaurants are a lot like trains, you don’t start at full speed immediately. He said his staff has to be recalled, supplies have to be ordered and precautions must be taken in order to keep COVID-19 cases connected to restaurants low. 

“We’re gonna look like boneheads if we open back up and the next batch of data comes out and the number is higher than that or something,” Cerankosky said. “We got to do our part in managing the spread as well.”

Kelly Bush, who owns several bars including Marshall Street Bar and Grill in an orange zone, said she’ll likely reopen, but won’t rush into things.

“We took our time when we reopened the first time,” said Bush. “We’ll make sure we have all the information and make sure that our staff has the information and our staff feels safe. And once we know that we can be safe doing that we will take the next step in reopening.”

WBFO's Marian Hetherly contributed to this story.

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