BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Tuesday called out local Tim Hortons locations that attempted to make their employees come into work while there was a driving ban during last weekend’s severe winter weather.
Poloncarz said in a press conference that employees reached out to the county over the weekend, claiming that owners were attempting to force employees to come in. The entirety of Erie County was under a driving ban beginning on Saturday night, and the ban lasted through much of the day Sunday for many parts of the county.
“We had some requests from employees that worked for Tim Hortons saying they had to come in because they’re essential. Tim Hortons is not essential,” Poloncarz said. “I know people want their cup of coffee, but when the driving ban is happening and snow is falling at 3 to 5 inches an hour, people don’t need to get to work to work at a Tim Hortons.”
Last month, the county unveiled a new online portal giving clarification on what employees were essential and were allowed to drive during a driving ban. That includes law enforcement, public safety, healthcare workers, public works, farmers and ranch workers responsible for food safety and other utility workers.
Poloncarz said the county has gotten requests from other businesses asking to deem their employees essential. He added the county has granted some of those requests, but denied others.
“We want to identify who the essential employees are,” Poloncarz said. “I’ll give you an example. We had fast food restaurants that were applying saying they were essential. They’re not. While we appreciate them, they’re not in a blizzard situation and we don’t want their employees going out on the roads. But we’ve had others that are essential and we’re responding to them.”
Poloncarz also mentioned that deliveries from the Amazon facility in Lancaster were shut down by Lancaster police for allegedly sending delivery trucks out during the driving ban. The Lancaster Police Department offered a different version of events, saying that they received a call on Saturday night about trucks lining up in the driveway of the Walden Avenue facility and sent a lieutenant to check on it. They said that there was only one truck in the driveway and the facility had already shut down on its own. Attempts to reach the Amazon facility by phone Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Most travel bans were lifted early Monday morning, with the last remaining travel bans being removed by Monday afternoon.
“To the Tim Hortons owners, as much as you think you’re essential, you’re not,” Poloncarz said. “The driving ban is in effect and it is there to protect people’s safety and their lives … we understand that there are some employers who believe they are essential, but in a situation like we dealt with in the Southtowns this past weekend, no one should have been on the road.”
You can watch Poloncarz’s full press conference from Tuesday in the media player below.
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Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.