Local restaurant, bar owners say state’s curfew, even with extra hour, is costing them

Updated: Apr. 15, 2021 at 5:56 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - One Republican lawmaker says giving bars and restaurants an extra hour to stay open isn’t good enough - it’s time to cancel the curfew.

Starting Monday, the governor is allowing bars and restaurants to stay open until midnight instead of closing at 11 p.m. Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay says that’s not enough, and any curfew is unfair. He points out the state has lifted the curfew for casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and gyms.

Barclay says it’s time for the same to happen for bars and restaurants.

“It’s time to end this arbitrary curfew and it’s time to let restaurants and bars get back to business in New York state,” he said.

North country bar and restaurant owners say they will take what they can get when it comes to operating time, but they say the couple of hours they are still losing can make or break a business.

While making drinks for her customers, Johnna Vargas thinks about what her business, and others, have missed out on.

“It’s literally thousands of dollars that businesses are losing every week,” she said.

Vargas owns the John Hoover inn in Evans Mills. She says the loss is due to the state’s curfew on restaurants and bars, which will be extended to midnight starting Monday.

Before the pandemic, bars and restaurants could operate until 2 in the morning.

Other businesses have been let off the hook. Movie theaters, gyms, bowling alleys, and casinos no longer have a curfew.

Vargas says it’s not fair to hold restaurants back.

“I think it’s very unfair that our governor likes to dictate what can be open, what is not open, what hours, what capacity,” she said.

About 10 miles down the road, Jay Brown owns Full Circle Bar & Grill in Watertown.

“In this area, we’re a smaller area, so every hour counts for us,” he said. “You’re looking at about $200 or $300 an hour on a good, decent day. So that’s the difference between making your mortgage or not, or hiring that extra cook, or hiring that extra bartender.”

Things that Brown will have to wait to do for now, and Vargas says she is excited to keep serving customers, even if it’s only for an extra 60 minutes.

“We would love to be open like we normally would until 2 a.m. but right now, obviously, we will take what we can get,” she said.

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