Following Governor Cuomo’s announcement today that outdoor dining can resume in western New York as part of the Phase 2 reopening, State Senator Rob Ortt and Niagara County Legislator Rich Andres today urged local governments in Niagara County to help restaurants expand their footprints to be able to host additional patrons.
“Today’s announcement by Governor Cuomo is welcome news but many restaurants have limited outdoor seating or none at all, so we need to look for creative ways to help them be successful,” said Ortt. “That could mean allowing them to use their parking lots to set up tables, perhaps adjacent sidewalks and maybe even look at ways to close some streets down to traffic if that makes sense in areas with several restaurant in close proximity.”
Ortt and Andres said the ability to allow for an expanded footprint is a decision that rests with local governments that would have to temporarily waive certain zoning ordinances.
“This is the time to cut through the red tape and help these local businesses that have been devastated over the last three months begin to get back on their feet,” said Andres, who chairs the County Economic Development Committee. “The county Health Department has some oversight of restaurants, but I already checked with them and there is nothing under their purview that would prevent expanded outdoor dining options. So, now it’s a matter of zoning and permitting.”
Ortt said that without localities joining the effort to help restaurants expand their capacity, many restaurants simply will not be able to reopen.
“As hopeful as today’s announcement is, restaurants need to be able to serve a certain number of customers in order for it to be economically feasible and they are already well aware that when indoor dining resumes in Phase III, it will be with a much reduced capacity,” said Ortt. “So, relaxing zoning where appropriate is a step we must take if we want to save the local restaurant business in Niagara County.”