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Court's COVID curfew reversal frustrates WNY restaurants

'We just felt so defeated again. Here we thought we were headed in the right direction,' Gabriel's Gate manager Kelly Hall said.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The sudden reversal by a state appellate court judge has nearly 100 Western New York restaurants regrettably reverting back to the state's 10 p.m. curfew.

The ruling announced Wednesday morning contradicts the one issued last Friday, which provided a temporary restraining order while the case involving the curfew was being discussed.

"It really felt like a punch in the gut," Gabriel's Gate manager Kelly Hall said.

Gabriel's Gate is one of the restaurants involved in a lawsuit filed by HoganWillig, which has sought to overturn the state's curfew.

New York State says the order was put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but restaurant owners have argued there is no justification for it.

After having their normal business hours restored last week, Hall said Wednesday's ruling came quick.

"We just felt so defeated again. Here we thought we were headed in the right direction and get caught up a little," Hall said.

During the five nights that Gabriel's Gate was allowed to stay open until 4 a.m., Hall said the restaurant's business was up 40% compared to when they were closing at 10 p.m.

Now they'll be losing out again.

"To be clear, we are no less safe at 10 p.m. than we are at noon or 11 p.m. than we are at noon," Hall added.

Added Rookies Sports Bar and Grill manager Tony Lupiani: "We never expected anything like this. Not at all. If anything we expected within in the industry, that ... the entire industry would open up."

Instead, the opposite happened. Rookies, which is also involved in the lawsuit, was forced to cut back on recently renewed staffing for some bartenders and security.

"We told them, 'Get excited, you've got a job again,' and now in a matter of a week, it's like, 'Well, actually, you're not going to have a job,' " Lupiani said.

And Rookies isn't alone.

"I had to cut staff, and we're down to the bare minimum again," Casa Di Francesca owner Steven Marchione said.

Marchione explained how his restaurant also saw a boost in business without the 10 p.m. curfew but now has a lot of customers calling to cancel reservations they made for Valentine's weekend.

"We had all kinds of plans. People were excited to come in late, and I'm getting a flood of emails a flood of messages of people saying how disappointed they are," Marchione said.

The hope for all these restaurants now comes down to next Tuesday, when oral arguments in the curfew case will once again be heard by a judge.

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