ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Gov. Kathy Hochul said COVID infection rates have declined to a level where it is safe to lift the mask mandate for most public settings beginning Thursday. This includes bars and restaurants, an industry that was hit hard by the pandemic.

This news is welcomed by business owners like Jason Pierce, President of the Albany Restaurant Association and owner of Savoy Taproom and the Copper Crow. He said bars and restaurants were devastated again this winter amid the omicron surge. Many saw major cancellations for the holidays.

“To have people be able to finally lose the mask, go out and enjoy themselves, be normal in a bar and restaurant again is huge,” Pierce said. “We hope that it brings with it profit, success, and allows restaurants to recover from a really hard year.”

Pierce went with a proof-of-vaccination requirement for Savoy Taproom when the state’s indoor mask mandate went into effect on December 13, feeling like it was the right thing to do at the time for the safety of his employees and customers.

After two extensions of the governor’s mandate, Pierce made the decision to switch to a mask requirement because he felt COVID statistics had improved enough. He said he and other business owners have felt for a while that it’s been time to relax the rules.

“For two-and-a-half years now, as business owners, we’ve had one rule after another handed down to us, and we’ve always done our part. When these latest mask and vaccine requirements came down, we did field some criticism for our choices,” Pierce explained. “The reality is, we didn’t agree with any of it. We didn’t want to do it, but we did, we went along, we were good business owners, and we followed the policies.”

Heather Briccetti, President and CEO of the Business Council of New York State, released the following statement regarding the end of the mask mandate for businesses:

“As protecting public health remains our top concern, we also appreciate the Governor’s efforts to assure that state policies reflect ever-changing COVID levels. Throughout the pandemic, employers have taken the necessary safety precautions and followed state and federal guidelines to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. We hope new policies will encourage New Yorkers to continue to support New York businesses still recovering from the pandemic.”

Heather Briccetti Esq.
President and CEO 
The Business Council of New York State 

The governor said in her announcement that businesses will still have the option to enforce covid requirements if they so choose.