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Restaurants shift to take-outs, brace for tough times

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 March 2020 at 10:55 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: Hillary Ingalls, left, and Kim Hodon, waitresses at Sam’s Diner in Holley, said they rely on their tips and worry with the shift to take-out only for restaurants. They also said many of their customers are like family and not having the dine-in option will be hard on many of the residents.

Restaurants and bars won’t be serving customers on premises, effective at 8 p.m. today.

Gov. Cuomo said the directive is needed to help fight the spread of the coronavirus. Friday the governor announced that restaurants can have up to 50 people or be no more than half full. Today came more stringent news, than dining on premises is now not permitted until the threat of the coronavirus passes.

“It’s going to be a tough road for everybody,” said George Gitsis, owner of Sam’s Diner in Holley.

He hopes the pandemic threat is over quickly and businesses and residents can get back to life as normal.

“The main thing is we have to get through this as a country,” Gitsis said this evening, not long before dining area would be closed temporarily to the public. “It’s changing so quickly.”

Natalie Galletto, a waitress at the Village House in Albion, holds take-outs orders at the restaurant on Route 31 this evening at about 7:30 p.m. After 8 p.m. today restaurants and bars are no longer allowed to serve patrons on premises until after the coronavirus health emergency passes.

Sam’s will remain open with take-outs.

Kim Hodom has worked as a waitress at Sam’s for 20 years, since she was a junior in high school.

“We’re extremely nervous,” she said about the impact on the business. “I live off my tips.”

The diner is popular with many residents in the community as a social gathering place. She worries about customers who come in frequently to see their friends.

The Village House in Albion is another popular local diner, where some customers come in daily, often two or three times a day.

The Village House also will transition to take-outs on Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day, and will have a special of corned beef and cabbage.

Natalie Galletto has worked as a waitress at The Village House for 12 years. She feels the anxiety among her co-workers and customers.

“It’s a sad situation,” she said. “We’re going to think positive and get through it. No one has ever dealt with this before.”

The New York State Restaurant Association is urging Gov. Cuomo to help the industry to prevent restaurants from going out of business. One way would be delaying restaurants quarterly sales tax payment.

Melissa Fleischut, president & CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association, wrote a letter to governor on March 12 asking for some concessions and intervention for the industry.

“We need your assistance during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis,” she wrote to Cuomo. “We applaud the proactive steps you and your administration have taken in the face of this growing crisis, and we firmly agree that the health and safety of our employees is the number one priority.”

Brick-and-mortar small businesses are struggling to make ends meet, and face an “inevitable downtown” with the government’s restrictions.

“We are asking the state to develop a program to provide the hospitality industry in the state with some relief as they weather this impossible situation,” Fleischut said.

Some of the organizations suggestions include:

• The state should extend the window for restaurants to make payments on COVID-19-related costs they are incurring, including paid sick leave;

• Extend the terms of payments to alcohol distributors from 60 to 90 days;

• Enact a 90-day extension on paying monthly sales tax;

• Make available no interest loans to those who have seen a dramatic decrease in business;

• Eliminate penalties for late payment of business and property taxes.

• Educate the public about how it is safe for patrons to continue to go about their normal business and to patronize their local community brick-and-mortar restaurants and bars.

“We cannot overstate how many restaurants are facing a dire future right now,” Fleischut said. “We want to stay open and keep employees on the payroll, but for some that will not be possible if this pandemic, and the associated quarantines, continue for even the next month.”

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