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OPINION: Ending Restaurant Restrictions is a Step in the Right Direction

By Will Barclay

Date:

But more must be done for industry

New York small-business owners and employees received some long-awaited good news recently from Albany as two burdensome restrictions hampering restaurants and bars were eliminated. The state legislature successfully rescinded one of Gov. Cuomo’s executive orders that required customers to purchase food whenever ordering an alcoholic beverage. After legislators announced their intent to roll back the food requirement, the governor quickly announced that the arbitrary curfews for bars and restaurants will finally be eliminated in May.

Certainly, these are positive measures that will go a long way toward helping New York businesses get back on track. The Assembly minority conference — along with our colleagues in the Senate minority — have for weeks called for these steps to be taken. These actions are long overdue, and waiting until the end of May to [fully] lift the midnight curfew is completely unnecessary. Again, it begs the question, “why?” There is no reason bar and restaurant owners should not be immediately permitted to operate under the same guidelines as gyms, fitness centers, casinos, bowling alleys, and other businesses.

On March 10, the Assembly minority conference introduced a resolution to rescind the bar and restaurant restrictions. Members of our conference talked directly with small-business owners who have been fighting for survival and whose recovery has been stifled by state-ordered restrictions that had no basis in science. We listened to the experiences of the professionals in the industry, and their mounting frustration with the governor’s prolonged orders was justified.

It took more than six weeks for our Democrat colleagues to finally follow our lead.

 While it is good to see progress, it is frustrating that the wheels of one-party rule have taken so long to turn. Six weeks is an eternity for the men and women working in the food-service industry who may have lost their jobs, experienced a dramatic drop in income, or were forced to watch their business close. According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 8,000 restaurants have been forced to close their doors since the start of the pandemic. The state Department of Labor reported that from December 2019 to December 2020, roughly 366,000 jobs were lost in New York’s leisure and hospitality industry — the hardest-hit industry in the state.

 Removing the arbitrary barriers on these establishments is the first step in what will be a long road to recovery. I’m proud of the tremendous efforts of Assembly Republicans working on behalf of these small businesses and the industry’s workforce, which are so critical to the communities they serve.

Moving forward, the legislature must continue to reassert itself as an equal branch of government, review and eliminate overly-burdensome executive mandates, and take on a greater role in planning and executing the state’s recovery. Anything shy of that is a disservice to the residents and businesses trying to get back on their feet. The legislature can, and must, do more for the people of this state.        

William (Will) A. Barclay, Republican, is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact Barclay at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us.