October 18, 2021

New COVID rules taking effect

Gyms, restaurants, bars to close early, smaller private gatherings

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Dean Williams of Cortland walks Thursday afternoon on a treadmill at Vine Health and Fitness on Main Street in Cortland. Gyms, bars, restaurants and any other State Liquor Authority establishment must close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. beginning 10 p.m. today. People also cannot have private gathering of more than 10 people.

Dean Williams of Cortland walked over to the bucket with sanitizing spray and grabbed the towel to wipe down the treadmill he had been walking on minutes earlier at Vine Health and Fitness on North Main Street in Cortland.

Under new coronavirus restriction starting 10 p.m. Friday, gyms, bars, restaurants and any other State Liquor Authority-licensed establishments must close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Gatherings of more than 10 people are also not allowed.

Many businesses the regulations would affect — bars, restaurants and gyms — close earlier in Cortland County, but those that remain face lost business. The order comes as the state sees an increase in COVID-19 cases 25,950 new cases since Nov. 5, including spikes past 4,000 cases on Tuesday and Wednesday.

For Williams, the gym restrictions won’t really affect him. Since retiring from the Homer Central School District he’s been going to the gym around 1 or 2 p.m.

Gym owner Janine Franco said the changes won’t affect many of her members, except those who come in at 4 a.m. or between 10 and 11 p.m.

“I really only have a couple people that late at night,” she said, adding it was the same for when she opens at 4 a.m.

However, she said it’s an inconvenience for the members who work out really early or late.

Those people go at those times are doing so because it’s the only time that fits into their schedule.

Bars and restaurants also won’t be grossly affected by the new restrictions though. Many, but not all, of the restaurants and bars close by or before 10 p.m.

Martin Shimer, the owner of Ivan’s Bar & Grill on South Main Street, Cortland said they’ve been closing at 9 or 10 p.m. during the week, but staying open an hour or two later on weekends. He said he began those hours once the state allowed bars to reopen in June.

Shimer also said business has been down 50%.

“We get pretty much of the same regulars,” Shimer said. “The kids aren’t coming down at night.”

Shimer said the college students aren’t coming because they can’t play pool, shoot darts or dance.

As for enforcing gatherings of more than 10 people, that may be a bit hard, said both Cortland City Police Lt. David Guerrera and Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms.

“I’ve heard about it but I haven’t seen an executive order,” Helms said. “I don’t foresee it being something we can enforce.”

Helms said the governor hasn’t given the department many details for past enforcement of restrictions.

Guerrera said it’s going to be difficult to enforce the restriction, but not impossible.

“We’ll use whatever city ordinances we can,” he said, looking for other violations like a noise nuisance or alcohol violations.

However, if over 10 people are gathering quietly it will be harder to enforce, Guerrera added. And said some college housing allows for more than 10 people, which would require officers to confirm whether everyone at a location lives there.