Cameron Pollack / Sun File Photo

The Ithaca Commons is home to many restaurants that will be drastically impacted by these restrictions.

March 17, 2020

Restaurants Limited to Takeout Food Only, Casinos, Gyms, Theaters Shut Down Across New York State

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Across the state, movie theaters, gyms and casinos are shut down, restaurants and bars are limited to takeout service, and crowds above 50 people are banned.

These restrictions — announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) in a morning press conference on March 16 — are the newest measures the state is taking in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Connecticut and New Jersey instated identical restrictions.

“It’s a big hit for us,” said Sam Chafee, owner of Sammy’s Pizzeria, a restaurant on the Commons.

In past years, the upcoming weeks of the spring semester typically bring added service as a result of finals and graduation. This makes these restrictions even harder on business than they might be other times of year, according to Chafee.

“I cannot pay the payroll, I have to cut hours,” Chafee said. “I just hope they are right, and that all these sacrifices are necessary.”

According to Chafee, employees have been distraught over losing hours, and food distributors are frustrated by returned orders and lack of business.

“We’re all suffering,” Chafee said. “I have big problems because I have employees asking me how they are going to pay the rent on their houses.”

Chafee was frustrated that neither the city, state nor federal governments communicated how small business owners and their employees will be financially compensated for the losses these restrictions will inflict.

Dan Tabb, an employee of four years at Collegetown Bagels, was shocked when he learned before work yesterday about the new statewide regulations.

“The place is empty and it’s a little scary,” Tabb said. As an added precaution, CTB management instructed employees to adjust to the new guidelines by 6 p.m., two hours earlier than required, Tabb said.

The reduced business makes the health precautions — such as disinfecting surfaces — easier to carry out, though they do involve more work for the employees.

Sakulthorn Goodall, an office worker at Taste of Thai, said that the restaurant’s servers will all take a hit financially from the loss of tips. The majority of the restaurant’s service is from in-house diners, according to Goodall.

But Goodall was confident that enough locals and students will remain in the area to maintain business at the restaurant.

“I hope its over soon,” Goodall said. “I’m getting sick not from the virus but from all this news.”

As far as a long-term plan, Taste of Thai management will “play it by ear,” Goodall said, as they adjust to the constantly changing set of state-mandated requirements.

During the March 16 press conference, Cuomo said that New York State will require 50 percent of all local government workers to work from home, and that all police officers in the state will have access to masks. The governor also strongly encouraged non-essential business to close by 8 p.m., exempting medical facilities, pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores.

In order to alleviate the pressures of staying at home with small children, Cuomo eliminated all fees to enter state, local and county parks.

“I believe we’ve taken more dramatic actions than any state in the United States,” Cuomo said in the press conference. “I believe we’ve had the most effective response of any state in the United States.”

Kathryn Stamm ‘22 contributed reporting.