Uncertainty for Erie County restaurants as Bills night game nears
Buffalo’s first home NFL playoff game in 25 years gave a big boost to restaurants who were able to host outdoor viewing parties. But, now with the Bills moving onto the next round, restaurant owners are showing concern due to the 8:00 PM start time.
Much of Erie County sits in the COVID orange zone, which bans indoor dining and puts a cap on outdoor dining to 10:00 PM.
“At this point in time is pretty tough on me,” said Ben Holmes, owner of Wallenwein’s in East Aurora, adding it was the busiest they’ve been in months, but now they’re in limbo.
“Because I have to order an extra 2000 wings, and with my other takeout that we were doing during the game, I'll need an extra 40 pizzas. So if I were to go ahead and order tomorrow and then I can't do this, now I'm sitting on all this food in a pretty slow time” says Holmes, whose family has owned the historic restaurant for over 50 years.
With the game expected to last until almost midnight, restaurants wishing to host Bills fans will need Governor Andrew Cuomo to amend his executive order on pandemic restrictions, something Erie County Legislature minority leader Joe Lorigo and his Republican caucus are calling for.
"While the rest of the state with higher positivity rates is open for business, we think the very least the governor can do would allow them to continue to open up for outdoor dining while the Bills game is being played,” Lorigo said.
Holmes said his restaurant’s last viewing event was successful, and another would give his servers an income boost that’s been few and far between during the pandemic.
“This isn’t an attack on New York State or anything with the rules. Just with this specific event we went out of our way to make sure we did everything right,” said Holmes. “Erie County Department of Health did show up here to check on me, I got a clean report and they actually looked at it and said this was an awesome setup.”
If the 10:00 PM closure stands, Holmes and several other restaurant owners say it wouldn’t make sense to host a viewing for only half of the game.