Digital Exclusive: Restrictions have bars, employees fearing the worst

Digital Exclusive

DUNMORE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — New restrictions from the governor’s office mean things like sitting at a bar are things of the past. It has many worried about the future.

“We’re all on our last leg. We’re all wondering what’s going to happen next because we don’t know,” local bar tender Michael Rufus said.

Many establishments have been playing by the rules and rolling with the punches for months.

“We purchased a thermal imaging camera so we’re able to scan every one of our customers as they come in. We have sanitizing stations all over the place and everybody is wearing masks,” Fireside Martini Grill co-owner James Reese said.

Reese jumped on board with every safety precaution and saw success with the curbside cocktails to go. Was it enough? Reese says it wasn’t up to him. 

 “I realize the governor has a big responsibility to keep everybody safe. However, he’s going to put a big dent in our financial stability,” Reese said.

The Fireside Martini Grill has ridden the roller coaster of pandemic shutdowns. Reese is confident that outdoor accommodations will get him through the summer. But owners of corner and local dive bars?

“It’s a nail in the coffin for them. They’re struggling to begin with and now, unless they have an outdoor venue? They’re pretty much done. We’re pretty much done in November if this isn’t taken care of,” Reese said.

Staring down restrictions that will cripple an already cash-strapped industry, owners and managers may need to hand down the burden.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen and I really, truly feel that this is going to change the entire bar industry for the rest of everyone’s life,” Rufus said.

Rufus has worked at a number of local bars over the years. He says the latest restrictions have pushed him to the edge.

“You’re taking it where we’re already down to half the capacity and dropping that to 25 percent capacity. People can’t make a living off that. Nobody’s going to be able to do it and I’m personally scared about my financial situation already with everything going on,” Rufus said.

Having worked at different-sized establishments, there’s major cause for concern.

“There’s no sitting at a bar now. So what are they going to do? Literally all the mom and pop places are going to be destroyed. The places that are going to be decently okay are the bigger corporate restaurants where people actually go down and have dinner with their family and just have a few drinks here or there. Not like the places where the bartenders are truly worried about what they’re going to be making for a living,” Rufus said.

Rufus says the writing has been on the walls as he’s seen more and more people playing it fast and loose with masks and social distancing.

“A good show has to come to an end but I just don’t want this to be my last thing where I can no longer bar tend,” Rufus said.

Reese says the days of a few beers with co-workers or friends are over and it’s a grim time for the bar industry.

“We might as well just lock our doors. It’s that bad,” Reese said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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