Long Island restaurant owners stood side by side with local elected officials Thursday morning with a simple message to their governor.
End the 10 p.m. curfew on dining establishments.
The group, which consisted of neighborhood restaurant and bar owners, as well as local town, village, state and county elected officials, gathered outside Argyle Grill and Tavern in Babylon Village.
They collectively expressed their gripes with the measure, which has been in effect since Nov. 11.
Richard Bedrosian and Roy Feicco, owners of the Babylon Burger Bar, said the curfew is “choking” restaurants out at this point.
“We really jump through hoops, we’ve adapted and changed every step of the way because we want to do the right thing,” Feicco said. “We want to make the community safe and profitable, but we need to go past 10 p.m.”
According to the state mandate, restaurants, bars, and other establishments with state liquor licenses must close in-person service from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Fitness centers and gyms are also impacted by the restriction.
The statewide action was taken amid a widespread uptick in COVID-19 cases before Thanksgiving and the holiday season, where Cuomo said indoor gatherings were a leading cause for the disease’s spread.
“We’re watching at 10:01 p.m., there are a hundred people on the streets saying ‘whose house are we going to,'” he said. “We’re all following the rules, and we just want a chance to make it and survive in this business.”
Gemelli Restaurant owner George Cosentino said the restriction has forced him to cut back on staffing.
“Where is the proof that staying open until 11 p.m. in a safe environment makes people sick, I haven’t heard it, I haven’t seen the numbers,” he said. “How do we survive?”
During the holidays, the area’s COVID-19 positivity rate surged past 7 percent.
As of Jan. 28, the positive rate has decreased to 5.34 percent and continues to gradually decline following the holiday surge. The latest report can be viewed here.
“New York State is once again making our way down the mountain after experiencing a holiday surge,” Gov. Cuomo said in his most recent press conference. “Our infection and hospitalization rates are steadily declining thanks to the actions of New Yorkers, but there is still more work to be done.”
With high-risk sports are set to resume in Suffolk County, people are questioning why can’t the restaurants stay open later.
“We know that basketball can be played, we know that wrestling can begin, what’s wrong with getting rid of this curfew on our restaurants?” asked Babylon Village Mayor Mary Adams at the rally.
In December, contact tracing data revealed that restaurants make up 1.43 percent of where the virus is coming from, while 74 percent of new cases at that time were coming from household gatherings.
“All of us try really hard to enforce the masks, we have bigger spaces, bigger bathrooms, controlling the consumption of alcohol and we’re trading that for going to a house party, where obviously the wheels fall off,” said Conor Hartnett, owner of Mary Carroll’s in Babylon Village.
“Please give us the hours back, 10 p.m. is actually murdering the restaurants of ours — we will do our job and keep people safe.”
Continue to follow GreaterLongIsland.com for updates on continuing coverage on COVID-19 and the restaurant industry.
Top: George Cosentino, owner of Gemelli Restaurant, speaking at the rally to open restaurants past 10 p.m.