Restaurants in Erie County gained a key victory in court for their effort to welcome back dine-in guests.
A State Supreme Court judge ruled the over 90 restaurants involved in the lawsuit would be able to re-open under yellow-zone guidelines, but it doesn’t reopen all restaurants in Erie County’s orange zone.
For that to happen the state would need to budge, or the county may need to go into court, something Erie County Legislature Minority Leader Joe Lorigo is looking into.
“For it to extend further, you would either need, Erie County government to take that action,” Lorigo said. “I'll be contacting my colleagues today to find out whether or not there's any interest in doing so. Maybe even reaching out to the county executive to see if we can get the county attorney to start a lawsuit challenging the orange zone designation on behalf of restaurants in the county.”
As of January 14, the county is taking some action. The Erie County Department of Health released the following statement, saying they would apply yellow zone-restrictions to all restaurants across the county as long as the ruling stands, not just those in the suit:
Still though, Lorigo said the ruling is a starting point for the restaurant industry, which hasn’t been able to offer dine-in service since mid-November.
“It's something that is long overdue," he said. "We've been in this orange zone now for nearly two months, restaurants are hurting. There's been, you know, no evidence to show that they account for more than 1.42% of community spread. It's time to open the restaurants back up.”
Judge Henry Nowak in his closing decision said the state had no “rational basis” to designate parts of Erie County a COVID orange zone back in November. County Executive Mark Poloncarz has also called the orange zone unfair, citing higher numbers in upstate counties that are still in yellow.