Orchard Park inching closer towards tailgating decision

Tailgating discussed at Wednesday's work session; More talks expected next week

Mike Baggerman
July 30, 2020 - 12:12 pm

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WBEN) – Town of Orchard Park officials next week are expected to address tailgating at Buffalo Bills games this upcoming season.

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    Thousands of people tailgate outside of Bills games each year, but public health and safety is at the forefront of the town’s discussions regarding whether or not fans can tailgate in the coronavirus era.

    At a work session on Wednesday night, town officials voiced their concerns about tailgating even if no fans would be allowed at Bills games this season. They also wonder whether vendors should be allowed permits if there are no fans.

    VIEW: Orchard Park work session (July 29)

    “It’s not just a question of the enforcement of social distancing concerns with the Erie County Department of Health, there’s also a question of public safety,” Councilman Conor Flynn said. “If these events are going to be held and they get rowdy, are we going to be able to afford to pay overtime for our officers?”

    In an interview with WBEN, Flynn said the town was told that 50 people who are on a one-acre lot is considered a gathering according to the state. He believes much of the enforcement will be conducted by the Erie County Department of Health if there is private gatherings.

    “We have some sort of structure to work with in terms of how many people would be allowed now,” Flynn said.

    The town is facing a roughly $750,000 deficit caused by the loss in sales tax, which is also factoring into their decision on whether tailgating is allowed.

    Town Supervisor Patrick Keem told WBEN earlier this month the town will not be issuing any permits for any commercial lots. However, there is no formal proposal yet for residential lots.

    “We’re focusing now on private lots to see if we can curtail tailgating there,” Keem said on July 16. “Obviously we have a senior population that is quite large and we have to protect those people. If they do tailgate, we know how rowdy it can get in the parking lot and our police we have to be concerned about. We have to protect them and keep them away from people who may have COVID.”

    Keem said he was expecting to hear more from the Bills this month, though it is unclear at this time if there were discussions between the town and the team. Flynn said he was not involved in any but did not know if other area leaders were.

    The Buffalo Bills have not formally announced how many fans, if any, are allowed to attend games this season.

    The Orchard Park Town Board will meet next Wednesday. Residential lot owners are expected to speak to the town.

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