The Erie County Comptroller is out with an analysis of COVID-19 violations since the pandemic began. It also criticizes how those violations were cited.
The Comptroller's Office reports $15,250 in fines levied against local businesses since the first case of infection was confirmed on Mar. 15. Those fines covered 424 violations at 280 "restaurants, establishments, veterans posts, daycares and churches."
Just over a third of those violations were deemed “critical,” while the rest were "non-critical." Included were 9 restaurants forced to close and 34 restaurants fined for employees not wearing face masks.
Restaurants forced to close for “operating indoor services against NYS EO”:
- AJ's in Clarence
- Eden Memorial VFW Post #8265 in Eden
- Gabel’s Bar in Buffalo
- Swannie House in Buffalo
- The Original Warehouse in Blasdell
Also closed was The Cowboy in Buffalo “overcrowding and lack of social distancing” and Kaz's in Blasdell for “server failed to wear mask while in direct contact with public.”
The report also criticizes the county Health Department for what it calls the "inconsistent," "arbitrary" and "subjective" way violations and fines were determined. For example, it says some restaurants were given a critical violation for staff not wearing a mask, while others were written up as a non-critical violation for the same offense.
"The Health Department should review and determine if businesses that were fined or closed received a 10-minute grace period," the report concludes. "The reasons written as the basis for the fine or closure did not specify the length of time individuals were improperly wearing facial coverings. They do not include sufficient information to determine if the 10-minute rule cited by the County Executive was violated. This could subject the County to appeals and other unnecessary legal expenses. As such, we recommend that the Health Department review the circumstances regarding fines assessed for improper usage of facial coverings and refund fines paid where appropriate."