After just a few weeks of offering outdoor and limited indoor dining, at least three Capital Region establishments have chosen to voluntarily close their doors due to renewed COVID-19 concerns. Wolff’s Biergarten, which has locations in Albany, Troy, Schenectady and Syracuse, was the first, posting a message from owner Matthew Baumgartner on social media on July 4, and Romo’s Pizza in Glenmont and Crave Burgers & Frozen Yogurt in Albany followed suit the next day. The announcements came just days after two Albany County restaurants—Philly’s Bar and Lounge and Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse’s Latham location—closed temporarily because employees tested positive for the virus.
“The reason for closing temporarily is that bars do not feel safe right now,” Baumgartner wrote in his letter. “Its defining characteristic was as a fun, close social atmosphere, with people packed together and cheering for their favorite teams. That’s not possible now.” Each of the four Biergarten locations are known for long tables at which customers sit shoulder to shoulder. Baumgartner denied Saratoga Living‘s request for comment.
In similar fashion, Romo’s Pizza posted to its Facebook page on Sunday with this message: “After some serious thought and consideration, with the numbers beginning to rise again, like many other restaurants around the area, we also have decided that we will be putting a halt to our outdoor and indoor dining. We think this is what is best for our staff and patrons at this time.” Romo’s will continue to offer takeout, as it has been throughout the pandemic. “Obviously, with the other few restaurants coming out with employees testing positive for the coronavirus, we just thought that might become a trend throughout the area,” Romo’s owner Anthony Berhela told Saratoga Living. “In the end, we’d rather be safe than sorry and just do what we can do to make sure that everybody was safe inside and out until things slow down a bit.”
While New York is not seeing the rise in COVID-19 cases that states such as Florida and Arizona have experienced over the last couple of weeks, Albany County did see its largest single-day spike since June 4 on Thursday, when 14 new cases were reported. The spikes in other states have been partially attributed to communities lifting lockdown restrictions, and there is growing speculation that even though New York saw a massive surge of cases earlier in the pandemic, lifted restrictions could cause a second wave of infections.
Both the Biergarten and Romo’s social media posts were met with widespread support from the community. “Thank you for taking the health and safety of your staff and patrons seriously,” Facebook user Monica Shimkus Borden wrote on the Biergarten post. “I know that it would be much more profitable to stay open, but I appreciate your stance. We promise to frequent your establishment, once this passes and we are all safe – please do not give up on us!”
As of Monday afternoon, no Saratoga Springs restaurants have publicly announced that they’ll be closing for indoor or outdoor dining, though the pressures of keeping patrons socially distanced is being felt throughout the restaurant industry. “It’s definitely hard to keep people under control,” says Bailey’s co-owner Matthew Beecher. “Drunk people forget because it’s not second nature. Most people listen. You literally have to babysit, though.” Baumgartner agrees. “Within the last few weeks of being open, it is clear that many people just don’t follow the rules,” he wrote in his letter. “We’ve tried asking nicely and even firmly, but when people get excited and have been drinking, they either forget to follow the rules or they don’t care.”