Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest round of COVID-19 restrictions, which began on Wednesday with bars, restaurants and fitness centers, now will have an impact upon casinos with state oversight.
Henry Wojtaszek, president and chief executive officer of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation, said today that the casino floor at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road will have to close at 10 o’clock every night until further notice.
“There are two restrictions that affect us – the first one that came down about the bars and restaurants having to shut down at 10 and this one that says the gaming floor has to close at 10,” Wojtaszek said. “We’ll be closing at 10 p.m. instead of 1 a.m. right now.”
When it was mentioned that it will hurt business, he said, “It’s going to, but … we prefer being open even if it is for reduced hours instead of being closed.”
Wojtaszek said he was informed that the hours of opening limitation could be in effect for 30 days.
On Wednesday, Cuomo announced new restrictions, ordering that effective at 10 p.m. tomorrow (Friday), bars, restaurants and gyms or fitness centers, as well as any State Liquor Authority-licensed establishment, will be required to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.
The governor said that restaurants will still be allowed to provide curbside, food-only pick up or delivery after 10 p.m., but will not be permitted to serve alcohol to go. The State Liquor Authority will issue further guidance for licensees as to what sales are continued to be permitted.
Mancuso Reacts to Restaurant Restrictions
Rick Mancuso, owner of T.F. Brown’s Restaurant on East Main Street in Batavia, said he has no choice but to follow the order, but said he speaks for all restaurateurs when he says he is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain operations when considering the effects on employees and the industry’s small profit margin.
“Safety of our employees and customers is paramount and we will continue to follow all of the state guidelines as well as the health department regulations,” Mancuso said. “Unfortunately, adhering to the guidance has been very costly in purchases of PPE (personal protective equipment) as well as having to shoulder the operational overhead on roughly 50 percent of historic sales.”
Mancuso said he agrees with a statement from Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, who called the news “a huge blow to the restaurant industry that is desperately trying to stay afloat.”
“We understand the logic behind micro-cluster restrictions, but at this time we have concerns about blanket statewide restrictions like this,” she said.
“I agree with Melissa’s statement and it certainly has been challenging to navigate the frequent changes and guidelines,” Mancuso added. “It’s most difficult for our hard-working and dedicated employees. Everyone is in the same situation and my concern is for all of our locally owned and operated businesses.”
Cuomo urged local governments to enforce the rules.
After 10 p.m., “If the lights are on and people are drinking, they get a summons,” he said.
Cuomo said that if the COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, further restrictions will be put into place, including limiting restaurants to operating at 25 percent capacity across the state.
The new restrictions also apply to indoor and outdoor gatherings at private residences, with limits set at no more than 10 people. Reasoning behind this is that the virus spread recently as a result of small indoor gatherings and Halloween parties.