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Cuomo lifts restrictions on restaurants in orange zone

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Beer Belly Deli

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has lifted restrictions on restaurants in orange zones. That means these establishments, including many in central New York, will be able to invite patrons inside for dinner.

Getting out from under orange zone restrictions is bringing relief to eatery owners like Lauren Monforte of the Beer Belly Deli in Syracuse.

“It’s an absolute lifesaver,” Monforte said.

Since November, when COVID case numbers plunged Syracuse and some nearby communities in the orange zone, Monforte has watched her business shrink, laying off more people each week. This ruling by the state will change that.

"Now, having indoor dining, we can bring staff back, morale will go up,” she said. “It’s like a blast of energy and new life.”

Monforte and other restaurant operators in central New York had been lobbying the state to ease up on the orange restrictions, which stopped patrons from dining inside restaurants in the greater Syracuse area, but free to eat elsewhere in the county where the yellow zone reigned. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon was among those trying to make Albany aware of the restaurant's plight. And he said while it’s good news, the community needs to remember that restaurants and bars were responsible for COVID spread last summer.

"Let’s acknowledge we need to do better this time around,” McMahon said. “We need to keep businesses open. Businesses need to follow the rules they attested to. We certainly will be enforcing it, but we are certainly very happy for these businesses.”

Restaurants in the yellow zone still have restrictions; hours are cut back, and there’s a limit to the number of people who can sit at a table. But Monforte said she’ll take that over the orange zone.

"I think the yellow zone is a really good compromise,” she said. “It provides protection for everybody, but allows us to pay our rent."