ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New Year’s Eve is Friday, and like last year, many are dialing back plans. In Rochester, officials say no big gatherings are planned. Instead, city hall wants residents to celebrate at local bars and restaurants “that could use the support.”
Restaurants and venues rely on big occasions like New Year’s to boost sales. And after almost two years of heavy COVID restrictions, Ross Mueller—owner of the restaurant Native—said things are slowly getting better for the business. “We’re definitely seeing an increase in customers willing to come out,” he says.
Even with COVID cases skyrocketing, he says people are feeling at ease in a spacious place like his. But densely packing in patrons during those big holiday money-making events still isn’t in the cards. “You’re still seeing those large Christmas parties and group gatherings that are canceling like they did last year,” Mueller said.
Native will still throw a soiree—toned-down from New Year’s Eve 2019, but still memorable, and safe. “There’s sanitation, there’s air filtration, there are measures these guys are taking. We’ve been doing it a long time,” Mueller said. Lower staffing levels are also still an obstacle.
For some, plans are a mixed bag. Tyler Sweet-Ray, coming from the funeral of someone who died of COVID, said this New Year’s Eve will be low-key. “Maybe just close family and at home,” he said. “Nothing too crazy at all.”
Trevor Thyer will be using a rapid test before heading out. “Hopefully, we all test negative so we can spend the holiday together,” he said.
Luke Trippi is waiting to feel the vibe this Friday. “Maybe we party, maybe we don’t, we’ll see,” he says.
Mueller wonders what dining out might look like for New Year’s next year. He said it will all come down to COVID, and the customer. “There are some people who are comfortable with it, and there are some people who are terrified of it,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in-between.”