Court ruling allows some restaurants in orange zone to open under yellow zone restrictions

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A State Supreme Court Justice has ruled in favor of some closed orange zone restaurants to reopen under the State’s yellow zone restrictions. Most of the restaurants are in Erie County, but could impact some in Monroe. 

“Unfortunately, we have to sue in order to get what we want,” said Rochester City Councilman Jose Peo, who supported this lawsuit. He says this comes down to basic rights and COVID-19 statistics when it comes to dining. 

“Still, even though the numbers proved a lot of them were just not contributing to the COVID numbers,” Peo said. “We’re talking like 2.2 percent, 2.6 percent.”

Peo said the more we can fully re-open, the healthier the economy will be. 

“When the businesses operate, taxes come in, and we can go back to funding our social services,” he said.

Don Swartz owns Veneto Wood Fired Pizza on East Ave. He is one of those 20 restaurants in the orange zone that could be opening as early as Thursday. He says tonight, everyone is still going through the injunction. 

“It’s a huge victory,” Swartz said. “I’m still a little numb about that.”

Swartz says the State will now be focused on the restaurants in Rochester, and getting this reopening right is going to be absolutely critical. 

“Now more than ever, the microscope is on us, so we need to make sure we’re doing the best we can,” he said.

The Highland Park Diner, which was part of the lawsuit, also plans to reopen. They say they still have everything ready, and it will be easy to do.

“Let us do what we were doing before. 50 percent capacity, we had barriers, we had partitions, we put in filters,” says owner Van Zissis.

In a statement, Monroe County Legislature Republican Majority Leader Steve Brew said the following in a statement Wednesday:

“The preliminary injunction issued in the lawsuit against Governor Cuomo and New York State allowing for certain Orange Zone restaurants to re-open to indoor dining is a welcomed step. The Orange Zone policy, as the ruling states, has no ‘rational basis.’ While these select restaurants will be rightly allowed to re-open, hundreds more will remain shuttered. The Orange Zone restrictions and arbitrary zones implemented by Governor Cuomo must be revised immediately and today’s ruling further proves this point.”

— County Legislator Steve Brew (R)

Like Brew, Peo says this is just a start and there is still a ways to go to fully reopen.

“This is step number one,” Peo said. “We can’t stop. We need to make sure we’re consistent and persistent with our rights.”

The state can still move to dismiss some or all of the tavern owner’s petition. A hearing is set for January 19.

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