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Bars prepared for influx of people on Thanksgiving Eve with mask mandate in place

Erie County imposed a mask mandate at indoor places on Tuesday. While County Executive Mark Poloncarz says people have complied, he's worried about bars.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bars across Western New York prepared for an influx of people on Wednesday night.

A newly issued mask mandate and 878 COVID cases, the highest number the county has seen since the beginning of the pandemic, had Erie County leaders on their toes.

"We have heard of pretty good compliance. Of course, we're worried about tonight in bars," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.

Meanwhile, bars like the Buffalo Tap House and the Banshee Irish Pub aren't as worried.

"Our security is going to check everyone's masks at the door and hope that everyone follows the rules," said Stephanie Smith, owner of Buffalo Tap House.

Added Conor Hawkins, co-owner of Banshee: "Everybody so far is being mindful and respectful of small businesses that are just trying to survive." 

On Tuesday, Erie County issued a mask mandate for all indoor locations, unless business owners have issued a vaccine mandate for their establishment.

Some places such as Mr. Goodbar, the Merry Shelley and Jack Rabbit are requiring the vaccine. 

However, some bar owners on Chippewa say imposing a vaccine requirement isn't realistic for them.

"I don't have staff to do that," Smith said. "That's another payroll person to pay to check everyone's vaccinations on top of everything else, so it would be a burden."

The masks are part of phase one of Erie County's new mandates. 

"If we follow the mask mandate, I don't think we'll get to the vaccine mandate. If we don't, it's coming. I can feel it just based on the numbers," Poloncarz said. 

The Erie County Department of Health has not said whether there will be extra sanitarians out. 

Instead, bar owners are asking everyone who comes by to follow the rules. 

"Comply, and if somebody asks you, 'Hey, you have to put a mask on coming in,' it's not the staff's fault," Hawkins said. "We don't want to be getting fines from Erie County. We want everyone to come out and enjoy themselves.

"Do what we got to do so we can get through this, and hopefully we can all come in, and have a drink, and be maskless very soon."