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Bars, restaurants adjust to new 'yellow zone' restrictions

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Local restaurant owners are responding to a new round of restrictions in the wake of increasing coronavirus infection rates.

New York state designated most of Monroe County as a "yellow zone" on Monday, which, among other things, limits restaurants to seating no more than four people per table and requires them close at midnight.

Kelly Bush, president of the Rochester chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, said the regulations will be especially difficult for small venues.

Bush, who owns the Marshall Street Bar and Grill, worries about the possible unintended consequences of a midnight closing time. She said that could mean people will move on to house parties or other unregulated locations.

"We know what we're doing," Bush said. "We follow the guidelines, and once people start partying at other places, that's where the masks come off and then the restrictions aren't followed."
Kelly Bush, owner of the Marshall Street Bar and Grill, behind the bar. Bush is also president of the Rochester chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Kelly Bush, owner of the Marshall Street Bar and Grill, behind the bar. Bush is also president of the Rochester chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association.
Bush is concerned that the current restrictions won't work to stem the rise in community spread of COVID-19 and Monroe County will advance to an orange zone.

That designation would restrict restaurants to outdoor dining only. With winter coming, she said that would devastate the industry.



"Basically, it would be takeout," she said, "which is not sustainable for a restaurant."

Chuck Cerankosky, the co-owner of Good Luck, Cure, Lucky's, and the Jack Rabbit Club in Rochester, believes the new limitations are a reasonable response to the climbing infection rates.

Cerankosky said his establishments were already closing around midnight, and dining has been trending toward smaller groups anyway.

"Calling back the reservations that were made before the restrictions that are of a size that exceeds four people is really just a dozen phone calls or so," he said. "It's not a complete upending of the business model."

Cerankosky said he and his management team were already concerned as they watched the COVID-19 rate increase among young adults around Halloween.

He said they spoke to staff members about remembering to practice safety guidelines outside of work. So far, he said no employee has tested positive for the virus.

The hospitality industry, Cerankosky said, has to do its part to end the pandemic.

"If you're a restaurateur out there, or a bar owner," he said, "do what the state asks and let's try to get through this so we can get it over with."

Beth Adams is a reporter with WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.