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Erie County restaurants welcome fans back inside for Bills playoff game

Due to state rules, bars and restaurants still had to close by 10 p.m. despite the late start.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Erie County bars and restaurants were able to welcome people inside for the first time in a while on Saturday night. 

In the orange zone, restaurants were limited to outdoor seating or takeout.

That changed in recent says, following a lawsuit against the state. They're now allowed to open at 50 percent capacity, with several other safety precautions in place. 

"People are all excited. Ever since we put our tent outside before this all got open again, it was sold out the day the tent was going up. The restaurant is sold out now. Everybody's coming now before they go to the game. When the game starts we've got a whole other group coming in. We're happy. We're really happy. We missed this," said Mark Ebeling, the manager at Danny's South in Orchard Park. 

Ebeling told 2 On Your Side he's excited to have customers back inside but it's been a lot of work getting ready for the game, with short notice.

He explained, "We had everything outside as of yesterday. We had all our TVs outside as of yesterday. We just put them all inside. It went back and forth with the health department and the state saying, 'no you can't,' 'yes you can' and then finally they gave us an okay and obviously, everybody got to open which I'm sure every restaurant around is so thrilled right now." 

Those sentiments were shared by Tommy Cowan, the owner of Forty Thieves and Doc Sullivan's.

He said leading up to the game, they had to scramble to get things in order.

Cowan said, "I didn't think we were gonna open overnight like that. Putting everything together and getting staff together, it was definitely a lot of work but we did it. We were very busy. You can tell the customer wants to come back. The phones are ringing off the hook."  

However, one of the challenges they're facing is that while the game started at 8:15 p.m., they still had to close by 10 p.m., per state guidelines. 

"We do last call for food at 9, and then last call for drinks at 9:15, and then we let everybody know checks are dropped and paid for by 9:45. By 9:50 everybody's got to start moving towards the door," Cowan said. 

Still, Cowan and Ebeling said they're happy to at least have fans inside again, even for just for the first half.