Rochester-area restaurant owner on new rules: ‘I don’t want to be in this business anymore’

Food and Drink

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — This past weekend marked the first weekend that bars and restaurants had to abide by the new state rule which only allows alcohol purchases with a purchase of food.

Many bar owners are worried about how this change will effect their businesses. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said  he recognizes this, however he also says the rule is in place for a reason. He said that restaurants that refuse to follow the law will impact the reopening process as a whole.

MORE | Confused & surprised: Rochester bar owners navigating new NYS alcohol service rule

Robbie Tennant co-owns Robbie’s Bar and Grill in Hilton. She said she’s had enough with these new rules.

“I can tell you I do not want this business anymore. I do not want to be a restaurant owner anymore,” she said.

Tennant said she’s still not sure if she’s following the rules correctly. She had a food truck this Saturday to help with the new food requirement.

“We got word that the liquor authority was coming around and checking all receipts, well I had a moment of panic and almost closed the whole place down because there’s no food on our receipts because they’re all getting it from the food trucks.”

MORE | Gov. Cuomo clarifies outdoor dining guidelines, alcohol service restrictions

Bob Youst is the owner of Whiskey River Pub & Grill in Charlotte. He said he tries to follow the rules the best he can, but he’s still nervous.

“Having the liquor and the threat of I’m going to walk in and pull your license off the wall, think of what the business owners have to go through every day trying to educate very single customer that comes in when they come in our facility. And then you have to think about, ‘God did I forget something,” he said.

David Harrison is the manager at Whiskey River. He said the rules are unclear.

“There was very little information on what is expected of us, we did our research online and we weren’t able to find any. It sounded like it was up to our interpretation,” he said.

Both said getting customers to follow the rules isn’t easy.

“It’s very difficult to enforce it without actual black and white guidelines our customers have their own interpretation of it, so we have to enforce rules that are very vague,” said Harrison.

On Monday, Gov. Cuomo said enforcement is the job of local government and police.

“We will have to roll back the bar and restaurant openings. If the congregations don’t stop and the local governments don’t stop it, that is what we’ll have to do,” he said.

MORE | Gov. Cuomo: Irresponsible businesses could lead to rollback of reopening phases

News 8 reached out to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office about this. They said they’ll continue to educate but won’t be enforcing these rules in any other capacity.

News 8 also reached out to Bob Duffy’s office and Empire State Development locally about the confusion with the new rules. They referred us to the State Liquor Authority, which hadn’t responded as of Monday evening.

Citizens who see violations or are concerned with something going on in a restaurant can report complaints, including photos, on the State Liquor Authority’s website.

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