Cold weather brings new fears for Capital Region restaurant owners


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Capital Region restaurant owners met on Tuesday to voice their concerns in efforts of how to navigate hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Owners said chilly weather means fewer customers are willing to eat outside while indoor dining rooms are still facing capacity limits.

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, Assemblymember John McDonald, and a panel of local restaurant owners gathered at Yono’s in Albany to get a sense of the unique challenges the businesses are facing and what shared solutions can be brought forward to help keep their doors open.

Local restaurant owners are asking for expanded indoor seating numbers, gatherings larger than 50 people, making alcohol to-go permanent, offering more commercial relief, and waiving of any state fees.

Those in attendance were Tess Collins, Owner of McGeary’s; Dominick Purnomo, Wine Director & Co Owner of Yono’s & DP An American Brasserie; Margaret Carciobolo, Owner of Nicole’s; Devin Ziemann, owner of the Cuckoo’s Nest; Executive Director of Downtown Albany BID Georgette Stefens; Co-Executive Directors of the Lark Street BID Jevan Dollard; Shauna Collins, Chair of the Lark Street BID; Patrick Noonan and Anthony Capece, Executive Director, Central Avenue BID.

Devin Ziemann, the owner of the Cuckoo’s Nest, said as fall makes it way to the Capital Region, new obstacles are on their way.

“It’s definitely a huge concern on whether we can keep the amount of employees we have on staff, or if we can keep the money coming in the rate that it has been,” said Ziemann.

Ziemann said he needs the indoor seating capacity number to expand or it will greatly affect his business.

“We are a small restaurant, and now that we don’t have outdoor dining, what does that mean? Can we reduce the six feet rule to five feet. Because, inside my restaurant, I don’t know how many tables that we can fit if the number does not get increased,” he said.

Many restaurants in the Capital Region are asking to expand their indoor seating capacity to 75%. As New York City increases their indoor seating numbers, local owners think they should follow suit.

“I think that’s a fair compromise. We are not asking to go right to 100% right now. We also go increase by 10% every month,” said Dominick Purnomo.

“I’m in full support of 75% quite frankly. I think it should even be 100%. It’s time to go on and live our lives,” said Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin.

McLaughlin is a member of the Capital Region Control Room. It is a group that monitors the reopening plans for each region. McLaughlin said the committee plans to meet next week. He plans on advocating and helping find solutions for restaurant owners.  

“I hope local officials can focus on the key steps that I think we need to do to keep our business viable,” said Ziemann.

This was the first stop on the Assemblymembers’ month long “tour” of restaurants throughout their districts and the broader Capital Region.

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