Owners and operators of bars and restaurants in Western New York who were prohibited from offering indoor dining achieved a considerable victory in a recent decision of the Erie County Supreme Court. On Thursday, January 14, 2021, Judge Henry Nowak of Erie County issued a preliminary injunction allowing restaurants to reopen for business in areas that are currently designated as “orange zones.”
Given the high positivity rate associated with “orange zones,” indoor dining in these designated areas had been prohibited pursuant to a determination by the New York State Department of Health. As a result, many restaurant owners in parts of Erie County, as well as Monroe County, had been forced to shutter their businesses. In an action commenced against the State, various restaurant owners, arguing that their businesses had been unfairly targeted by New York State, joined together to seek injunctive relief which would allow them to re-open and operate their restaurants under the less stringent “yellow zone” restrictions. In those areas designated as a “yellow zone,” restaurants are permitted to operate indoor dining at 50% capacity. In addition, there must be six feet between tables, a maximum of four (4) people per table, and all staff are required to wear masks, as are customers, when not seated.
Considering the implications of the preliminary injunction to permit a temporary reopening of restaurants for indoor dining, the Governor’s office issued a statement indicating that it would thus permit all restaurants operating in “orange zones” to reopen and operate under rules governing “yellow zones,” so as to “ensure uniformity and fairness” while the Governor’s office reviews Judge Nowak’s decision.
A hearing will soon be set with respect to the request for a permanent injunction which would permit bars and restaurants in designated “orange zones” in Western New York to remain open for indoor dining with appropriate social distancing.
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