By Chelsea L. Brown
ROCHESTER, NY – Uncertainty looms over the local bar and restaurant industry as COVID numbers continue to rise across the state. New dining restrictions went into effect earlier this month, limiting diners to four per table and forcing all dining establishments to close nightly at 10:00 PM. As local restaurant owners scramble to cope with the newest mandate, employees of the service industry face continued frustration and anxiety.
“I’m completely destroyed financially,” said local bartender Tim Baran. “All the money I’ve saved up is about to be gone”.
Local bartenders are experiencing crippling financial hardship as Rochester moves toward additional dining restrictions.
“Right now I have no idea what the next week will bring, I barely knew what I was walking into today.” Baran said of his Monday bartending shift. “I’ve had an entire shift cut and now we are closed during our peak hours”.
And for most bars and restaurants those peak hours occur later in the evening.
“We make a lot of our money after 9:00 PM because not only do we cater to people who want to come in late night, but we also cater to other service people who want to come in after their shift” Baran said.
Bars and restaurants remain heavily impacted by COVID-19 both locally and across the country. According to a study released by the National Restaurant Association nearly 100,000 restaurants (representing 1 in 6) have closed their doors between March and July. With COVID number rising again, restaurant workers anticipate another round of restrictions.
“I check every day for updates on when we might go into the orange zone, because if that happened we would move to take-out only or just close down entirely,” said local bartender Lindsey Hurbert, “When we went to-go only earlier this year I was only working one shift a week, which right now would be a pretty unlivable wage.”
Future dining limitations seem inevitable as Rochester is currently on the brink of being reclassified as an orange cluster zone. According to New York’s Cluster Zone Initiative, Rochester’s 10-day rolling average could qualify for orange zone status within the next week. For local restaurants that would mean limiting service to outdoor dining and take-out only.