Cuomo's curfew frustrates upstate bar owners

JOE LOTEMPLIO/STAFF PHOTOGary Duquette Jr., owner of Plattsburgh City-based bar, the Fourth Ward on Montcalm Avenue, said he was “scared to death” of another potential shutdown of local businesses. “I’m trying not to think about that. It’s headed that way and getting shutdown again would be devastating.” 

PLATTSBURGH — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's latest curfew, which, starting today, requires pubs statewide to cutoff bar flies and close doors no later than 10 p.m., has left some Plattsburgh City bar owners outraged.

"I think what the governor has done is a terrible thing," Robert "Bobby" Hall, owner of Bobby's Lounge on South Catherine Street, said Thursday. "I think he's being a dictator and I think it's totally wrong."

The curfew applied to restaurants, as well. 

STEP BACKWARDS

Bars, like all other nonessential businesses, were shutdown in mid-March under the governor's PAUSE order. 

Those in the North Country were cleared for a June reopening, but had other rules to follow, like limiting capacity, requiring masks and spacing, and, as was later added, serving food.

At the time, bar owners had said the closure period combined with the added protocols would make it hard to keep businesses afloat, but were, all in all, grateful for the reopening.

As previously reported by the Press-Republican, Hall had called it a, "step in the right direction," but the governor's recent restriction had the Area 10 Clinton County legislator singing a different tune. 

"I think Gov. Cuomo started out this pandemic doing a fantastic job and now he has gone the other way and all he wants to do is tell people what to do and order them around," Hall said. 

"Clinton County is nowhere near like New York City and he's judging everything on New York City and it's totally wrong."

Gary Duquette Jr. echoed Hall's sentiment, saying capacity requirements currently limited his Plattsburgh City-based bar, the Fourth Ward on Montcalm Avenue, to about 25 people. 

"We don't ever have more than 15 or 20 people in this bar and everybody always wears their mask and abides by the rules," he said, while calling Gov. Cuomo's new mandate frustrating.

"It's just like what happened last time. (Cuomo) gets mad about all of the stuff going on in (New York City) and takes it out on the rest of the state." 

MONEY LOST

Hall thought closing at 10 p.m. on weeknights was a nonissue, saying Bobby's Lounge typically shut its doors before that time anyhow.

It was with Fridays and Saturdays that he had a problem.

"Those are the only nights you make money," he said. "It's going to hurt us even more financially; it hurts my employees." 

Both Bobby's Lounge and the Fourth Ward could stay open as late as 2 a.m. on those weekend nights. 

"That's four hours of the night when we actually have loyal customers that come in here," Duquette Jr. said of the hours between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. "When you lose that business — it's so frustrating.

"That's a lot of money that we're going to lose." 

TOO MUCH POWER

Not only did Hall call Gov. Cuomo's curfew "ridiculous," he felt the governor was holding it over the heads of statewide bar owners by threatening New York State Liquor Authority action. 

"Instead of asking for our help, he threatens us," Hall said. "I've been in the bar business in Plattsburgh for over 40 years. I've never been scared of anything, but I'm scared of the State Liquor Authority.

"Every restaurant and every bar in Plattsburgh is scared of them." 

It was in Hall's opinion that the state agency had power enough to fine, close or revoke licenses from establishments without much reason.

"They don't have to answer to anybody," he said. "It's like we're in a foreign country or something. They should not have that type of power."

'SCARED TO DEATH' 

While numbers have been on the rise locally, neither bar owner felt it was the fault of Plattsburgh's pubs. 

Speaking as a county legislator, Hall noted that there have been no COVID-19 cases in Clinton County that have been publicly connected to a city-based bar or restaurant.

"There have been cases," he said, "but they haven't come out of our bars." 

Asked if he thought the recent mandate's regression could lead to a full shutdown, Duquette Jr. said that was of real concern. 

"I'm scared to death of it," he said. "I'm trying not to think about that. It's headed that way and getting shutdown again would be devastating."

Email McKenzie Delisle: 

mdelisle@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle

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