If you looked carefully Monday at the casually dressed people sitting at a bright yellow table outside Tappo restaurant on Chandler Street in Buffalo, you may have recognized the woman in the red blazer and sunglasses. It was Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and husband Bill enjoying the outdoor dining on the last day before Phase Three begins.
In the slow rollout of the reopening of New York, Tuesday is when customers can eat inside a restaurant, with customers and servers showing brand new work on their fingernails. Personal care services like nail repair is another one of the key elements of Phase Three. The essential COVID-19 rules apply: masks for everyone and tables socially distant.
Hochul sees Phase Three as the result of New Yorkers following the rules.
"I know a lot about restaurants because I used to be a waitress and a pizza maker. So I'm going to come check out how they make their pizzas here," she said. "So I notice a lot of people getting back to work. It's not just for the customers who've been waiting to throw in their aprons and give up cooking at home like I am. It's also about the employment and bringing people's livelihoods back."
The big job totals are in bars and restaurants and they are big economic drivers. Just ask State Restaurant Association President Melissa Fleischut.
"The restaurant industry, in and of itself, is one of the largest private sector employers in the state," she said. "Prior to COVID, we had about 660,000 employees. But you're right. All the food suppliers and the alcohol suppliers and the linens and the silverware and the glassware. Everything that we have in the restaurants touches so many other industries."
Many restaurants are inside hotels and both have been essentially shut down by the virus. Opening sit-down eating inside will help hotel owners bring in some cash to keep their shareholders and bankers happy while they wait for customers to again want to stay in hotels, whether summer resort hotels or business traveler hotels.
For those in hospitality, the next question is holding events. Hart Hotels President David Hart said the business needs those events.
"Our New York State hotels have had 60 weddings postponed in the group, which is obviously a lot," Hart said. "And I say postponed. Most of the brides have opted to hold their reception next year, so that's good. We gotta get to next year. There's no doubt it's a challenge."
Like many others, Hart now has restaurants re-opening in his array of hotels and is calling back some workers. Now he needs people to stay in those hotels. Albany hasn't really set the rules for holding events and that is one of the remaining unknowns in the reopening process.