ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Exactly three years ago, most people had a feeling that the world was about to change. Although few could have predicted the impact that COVID-19 would have on all of our lives and how long the changes would last.

According to the Federal Reserve, over the first year of the virus, more than 1 million private businesses across the country closed for good. The restaurant industry struggled with a total shutdown in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Spectrum News 1 went back to a Rochester bar and restaurant that we first visited during COVID's rise to see if things have turned around. The short answer is they haven't.

In the three years since the pandemic began, the restaurant industry has faced some of the biggest challenges. Those challenges don’t all have to do directly with the pandemic itself.

Nobody likes bill paying day. But Michael O’Leary has to do it. The owner of Temple Bar & Grille says business has changed a lot since the start of the pandemic.

“I remember one young lady when, when the state shut us down, she asked me how long this was going to last. And I said, 'this could be three or four weeks. This could be a while,'” said O'Leary.

We visited O’Leary around that time when restaurants were only allowed to serve takeout. Even after the world opened back up in downtown Rochester, it’s a different world now.

“Business has come back to a degree," O'Leary said. "It's a different crowd than we had. The cost of doing business has gone up dramatically.”

Food and labor costs have skyrocketed. Temple is no longer open for lunch and there’s really no happy hour crowd. There’s also another issue O’Leary says many downtown business owners deal with.

“I think people are a little hesitant to come downtown right now because they hear about the violence," he said.

O’Leary says bar owners have tried to change that, and he says Rochester City Hall has been helpful. St. Patrick’s Day parades draw big crowds downtown — at least when the weather cooperates. There’s a lot riding on this year’s parade.

“These events have, they were always important to us, but now they've really grown in importance to us," said O'Leary. "It's the best marketing tool that we can ... we have.“

O’Leary has been in the neighborhood for 30 years. Despite the struggles — he’s optimistic.

“We’re looking forward to a big year in downtown," he said.