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Bills vs. Ravens: New York State won’t allow bars, restaurants to stay open during the game

That stinks.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

As part of the restrictions on dining during the COVID-19 pandemic, bars and restaurants need to close down at 10 p.m. EST. Those establishments had been hopeful that the Buffalo Bills’ game would allow for an exception, but on Wednesday we learned that was not the case.

“The fact is the CDC has specifically pointed to indoor dining as a higher-risk activity, and this policy is a commonsense way to reduce the risk of exposure,” said Jeffrey Hammond, public information officer for New York State. “As much as we feel for restaurants in Buffalo and as much as we want to let fans watch the game at bars, we won’t sacrifice public health.”

Indoor and outdoor concessions are impacted by the decision, including those at the stadium. Better make your food and beverage purchases early. Even at Bills Stadium the concession windows will be shuttered at 10:00 p.m.

“We want to avoid a situation like what happened in Alabama earlier this week,” Hammond said, referencing the students celebrating following the win by the Crimson Tide in the National Championship Game. But they weren’t buying Pizza Logs and a Sprite.

Still, there is an argument to be made that keeping restaurants open in certain areas of the state would actually REDUCE exposure. While Hammond references indoor dining as a higher-risk activity, the state’s own data shows the vast majority of spread is occurring in private gatherings at people’s homes. In restaurants, they can enforce masking and distancing or fear losing their liquor license. In homes, there is no such incentive. The thought process only works if you assume folks are going to stay in their own house with the bars closed, rather than going to a friend’s house to watch the game.

Bars and restaurants have been hammered by the restrictions placed on them during the pandemic, as these early start times have been in place since November 23rd and that’s if they were able to stay open. On Wednesday, a judge ruled in favor of several Western New York restaurants who wanted to re-open indoor dining after being placed in an “Orange Zone” by the state and forced to shut down.

During his State of the State address this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said “Why can’t we use rapid testing to open restaurants in orange zones, theaters, offices?”

Citing the Bills’ game last weekend, he also said that the PCR testing model employed at Bills Stadium is acting as a pilot program for other events coming to New York State.