CAPITAL REGION -- The popular Wolff's Biergarten has closed all four of its upstate locations, including the one in Schenectady, due to concerns about keeping staff and customers safe from COVID-19.
The announcement on Facebook by owner Matt Baumgartner on Saturday came just two days after two Albany County restaurants had to close after staff members tested positive for COVID-19, and Baumgartner noted it's threat to his and other restaurants. The closures went into effect immediately.
"For now, Wolff's can't be Wolff's," Baumgartner wrote. "We really feel that pausing is best for everyone, and we will be thrilled to welcome you back, whenever that is. For now, we can only say that we will re-open we can do so safely and in the true spirit of the Wolff's Biergarten you have loved and made so much fun for the last 11 years."
The voluntary closure of the Erie Boulevard restaurant/pub, often hailed as an exemplar of downtown Schenectady's turnaround, is just the latest example of how the restaurant and bar industry across the country has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The initial outbreak in New York in March caused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to close all bars and restaurants in the state to on-site consumption, sending the entire industry into a tailspin. When Capital Region restaurants were allowed to open with 50 percent indoor capacity a couple of weeks ago, patrons were supposed to follow social distancing guidance, but many haven't.
Similar problems in restaurants and bars in California, Texas and Arizona have contributed to a growing volume of COVID-19 cases in those states. In some of those places governors who were re-opening their economies have had to backtrack and close bars and restaurants, angering business owners.
For Wolff's, though, the closure is voluntary -- Baumgartner said right now he can't afford the extra staff that would be needed to enforce the distancing and mask rules.
"We along with other restaurants are seeing a rise in COVID cases within our own teams, and it just doesn't feel safe for our employees and our guests," he wrote. "The model put in place for our bars and restaurants just doesn't work right now."
Wolff's has locations in Albany, Schenectady, Troy and Syracuse. The Schenectady location opened in 2014.
There was also fallout on Saturday from the two virus-related restaurant closures on Thursday in Albany County.
County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said there were 13 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Albany County on Friday, triple the number of new cases from the day before.
"Multiple positive results are linked to the two restaurants where staff tested positive this week," his office reported. "Additionally, there are 230 people under mandatory quarantine." That was up by 25 people from the day before.
Albany County on Thursday announced the temporary closure of the Philly Bar and Lounge in Latham and the Delmonico's Italian Steakhouse on Central Avenue in Colonie, after three employees at each restaurant tested positive. The state Health Department on Friday conducted onsite testing for employees at both locations, accounting for the majority of the new cases announced Saturday morning.
Because of the new cases, the five-day average of new daily positive cases increased from 5.8 per day to 7.8 per day, McCoy said. A total of three county residents remained hospitalized, he said, none of them in intensive care units.
Albany County had 14 new diagnoses on Wednesday, but only four on Thursday.
Among other local counties, Schenectady reported seven new cases on Friday, Rensselaer County four new cases, and Saratoga reported one case, according to Cuomo's office. Other local counties reported no new cases.
Statewide, the governor said there were 11 additional COVID-19 deaths. Also statewide, there were 726 newly diagnosed cases. That was down from 918 new cases the day before.