Friday, September 18, 2020

Bars cast weary eye on second shutdown


By Johnathan Ciolek  

    Having endured the recent COVID-19 forced shutdown and another lingering on the horizon, bars on Elmwood Avenue, such as McGarret’s, wonder if their businesses will be able to stay afloat if they are forced to close again.

The Erie County Department of Health has recorded over 10,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in the county. This forces government officials to consider another potential shutdown in an attempt to slow the increase of cases.

            Located on 946 Elmwood Ave., this watering hole, recently celebrating its 18th anniversary, sits right in the heart of the Elmwood Village.  

            Dave Putnam, one of the owners at McGarret’s, is concerned on how long another potential shutdown can last for.  

            “I could swing it and keep the bar open,” Putnam said. “It really depends though on how long the shutdown would be. If it is only a few weeks, I can get some money from here and there to stay open.”

            Current COVID-19 regulations state that any patrons in bars must order food in order to be served alcohol. McGarret’s recently started serving slices of pizza to abide by the regulations.

            Signs are also posted on the doors stating that a mask must be worn at all times until seated. In addition, bar stools are spread out from each other to ensure safe social distancing is being practiced.

            Putnam said that if another shutdown occurs, there is not a viable option to conduct takeout or delivery orders because the bar does  not normally serve food and it would be too difficult to fulfill drink orders.

            “I would hate to see the bar go,” Putnam said. “I have been around here since 1996 and it would be a real bummer to see it close.”

            Others in the community sympathize and share the same Putnam’s concern if bars were to close.

            Jon Korta, a former bar manager, feels that bars are very important to the Buffalo community.

            Korta said that bars started out as public houses, which were places for local community members to come and congregate together, share news, meet friends, eat, and just be social. Many public houses even served as town halls.

            “Bars play such a major role in our Buffalo identity,” Korta said. “At our core, we are social animals and it is important for us to gather together. The loss of these businesses will have a negative effect on local economy, but it will also affect the local psyche.”

              Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has told reporters that he does not want to see businesses shut down and would rather see them safely stay open and slowly increasing the total capacity.

            At the moment, the only option for places, such as McGarret’s, is to keep following the regulations currently put in place by Gov.  Andrew M. Cuomo.

            Currently, Buffalo is in phase four of reopening. According to the Erie County Department of Health, there is a 2.1% daily positivity rate. Poloncarz and Cuomo have warned that if the daily rate does not continue to decrease, there will be no other alternative but to scale back economic activity.