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WNY restaurants limited to half-capacity by state as coronavirus precaution

New York State’s precautions due to the spreading number of novel coronavirus cases will include limiting public venues to half-capacity.

That means restaurants aren’t supposed to be more than half-full, if they’re open, according to the rules that go into effect statewide Friday.

On Thursday afternoon, Pizza Plant owner Bob Syracuse was trying to figure out the details – like everybody else in the restaurant business.

“I was just sending an email out to my managers saying we have to be proactive,” he said, “and things are so moving so quickly that we have to look forward to maybe having every other seat full.”

That was one calculation. Now come the harder ones.

“I have a little reserve, but that's going to be used up if I have to stay open with no business,” Syracuse said.

“But then again, even if you stay open, you have a mortgage. We have a loan downtown,” he said of his Canalside location at 125 Main St. “Now that the NHL games are canceled, Bandits are canceled. That's bread and butter for us downtown.”

He checked with his insurance agent, but his business interruption insurance doesn’t cover viruses unless they’re proven to be part of a terrorist attack. The price of insurance that does cover viruses is rather expensive at the moment.

Then it was time for Syracuse to do what veteran businesspeople do: run scenarios.

“If we have to run at half-capacity, if it was consistent, we would still be OK,” he said.

Will the patio count for the seating calculations? Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told reporters the county doesn't have the staff to monitor restaurants for violations of the half-full rule, leaving operators to choose the proper path.

What difference could the drive-through window at the 7770 Transit Road Pizza Plant location make?

“Our pickup window may be a godsend," Syracuse said. "People could just pick up stuff; we could keep a short crew on to work the window.”

So many new wrinkles. “We're thinking about all these things, who knew a couple weeks ago?" he said. "This was not on the plate, so to speak.”

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