This isn’t a race of who can open first or faster or better, it is about who can help rescue what will be left of our small businesses. No one wins as each day passes and each of these business owners comes closer to making the difficult decision to close their doors forever.
What is frustrating to me and to the business owners in my town is that while Greece is the largest town in the “Finger Lakes Region”. We haven’t been included in any discussions whatsoever. So if there is an impression that we are “moving ahead with plans,” then perhaps it is because we have never once received a call from anyone in state government whatsoever about decisions or conditions or even health updates. These regional leaders were put in place, one would assume, to reach out to their regions with updates and information.
I know from a recent email from Empire State Development; that was received after our announcement that they (ESD) have been in discussions with the City of Rochester to model a plan, likely similar to the one we have proposed in Greece. Though we did not get any advance notification or a “heads up” independently we formulated a plan that would safely allow outdoor seating. It was an “outside of the box” idea yes, but based on our current Special Use Permit for outdoor seating and it was an attempt to streamline our process, with no charge and to help those that contribute so much to our economy.
My job is to be the voice of our residents and our businesses. My other main priority is their safety and security. What we are noticing that is already happening in Greece is that people are setting up their own “outdoor” seating. They are pulling chairs from locations into parking lots, they are setting up lawn chairs in larger parking lots, they are bringing their blankets and card tables and taking their “take out” or “pick up” food and eating together. And of importance to note is the same employees that are delivering your food to your back seat or your trunk are the same people that would be safely delivering your food to your clean and socially distanced table. This desire to be together as a community is happening despite anyone’s attempts to control it. My concern, is there are no safety measures; no stanchions, no fencing, no provisions to protect them from traffic whatsoever. We have Special Use permits that are typically submitted by various restaurants, they are typically seasonal in nature; there is a permit fee and a review. What we wanted to do was offer this opportunity to anyone that could safely provide outdoor seating that would be monitored. We would review and inspect their proposal for safety, proper cleaning protocols and social distancing, issue a 90 day permit with no charge for the inspection and allow them to open up outdoor seating. We wanted to improve on impromptu, unprotected gatherings that will occur and are occurring. We have over 150 restaurants; we don’t have enough staff to monitor these establishments to be certain residents aren’t “dining outside” 24 hours a day. This permit never purported to alter any laws or regulations that are in place or those stipulations as required by the State Liquor Authority, they were meant to provide safety and to help our businesses, period, no grander plan, no political motive, just help where it is desperately needed.
I listened to the Governor once again yesterday – we heard good news – all the numbers are good – deaths are down, new cases are down, hospitalizations are down, and then there was the concern for small businesses and blue collar workers and we all waited to hear about the potential for relief but alas it did not come. Instead we heard of everything else but what help was coming to the small business owner; the restaurant owners who have been serving the public who have chosen to stay home.
I have no issues with those that choose to continue to isolate at home, those that are immune compromised and their desire to continue to distance themselves because of their condition. If they indeed are not going out, are practicing social distancing, are wearing their masks, then this would not purport any additional harm to them because this is already going on. Again, this is as much a safety decision as an economic one and I feel the responsibility to try and assist these businesses so that after we walk through these phases there is a chance that some of them make it through to the other side.
What has changed today is that Greece businesses are now receiving threats from the Liquor Authority and through Bob Duffy’s office. No one wanted to get ahead of the Governor, we wanted to lend a helping hand before it’s too late, we wanted to be a common sense partner in keeping these restaurants open.
Yes we have restaurants applying for permits, but indeed, I would never want to cause them harm – these threats are meant to punish businesses and threaten their attempt to try to survive at the same time we are trying to support them.
This morning we also learned that salons have been switched to Phase III, again no notification, no warning, just a line or two moved on the website. That line or two move, that week or so will make a difference. Many are saying they won’t make it another week. We need help and we need it now. The metrics are showing we’ve done our job why another roadblock.
Please note, there will be no additional statements at this time.