Restaurants brace for outdoor dining as phase two of reopening kicks off Wednesday

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Restaurants brace for outdoor dining as phase two of reopening kicks off Wednesday
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced the launch of Open Streets Pilot Program to aid in the revitalization of downtowns throughout the county. (Photo by Karen Rubin)

Officials from the Town of North Hempstead said Monday that restaurants can apply for outdoor dining permits in advance of the second phase in New York’s reopening plan, which will take effect on Wednesday.

According to a news release sent out on Monday, the town will expedite the permit approval process for outdoor seating to help restaurants include more seats for customers as quickly as possible. The permits, officials said, will be free of charge.

“In anticipation of entering phase two here on Long Island next week, I believe it is imperative that the Town work swiftly to allow our local restaurants to apply for outdoor dining permits now,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a statement.

Mike Wach and his daughter Rorie Miller have owned the Great Neck Diner since 2009.  Wach said the diner has struggled along with most restaurants in the area, but said he and his daughter are excited to begin outdoor dining on Wednesday.

“We’re very excited about returning to sit-down dining,” Wach said. “We’re also very appreciative of the loyalty our customers have shown with takeout, curbside pickup and delivery.”

“Dining out is a fun activity that we have all missed for the last three months,” Bosworth said. “We are all anxious to resume our normal lives, and this can help return a sense of normalcy in a safe and appropriate manner. Our residents and restaurant owners need this.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who implemented Nassau’s Open Streets program to aid restaurants, showed her support for local eateries in downtown Farmingdale.

“The shutdown has come at a high cost for our county’s downtowns, the restaurants, and mom and pop shops that previously were the lifeblood of communities,” Curran said.

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin touted Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to include outdoor dining in phase two of the state’s reopening process.

“I am thankful the Governor has listened to the calls of our local officials, business leaders and residents who are ready for safe, outdoor dining in our communities,” Clavin said. “Outdoor dining is an effective way to kickstart our economic recovery efforts. Not only will this help our local restaurants, but it will also help our residents struggling with quarantine fatigue.”

“As more regions across the state continue with the reopening process, New Yorkers should remember it was because of their hard work that we have been able to bend the curve and reopen this quickly, and all individuals should continue to follow the necessary guidelines and precautions to help prevent a renewed increase in the spread of the virus,” Cuomo said on Tuesday.

Clavin launched an outdoor dining initiative earlier in the year which waived permit fees and expedited the application process to aid restaurants in their road to recovery. Town officials said the Building Department has already processed dozens of applications, aiding eateries on their way to serving customers in a sit-down environment once again.

“It’s imperative to overcome this pandemic without harming the local businesses that comprise our township’s robust identity,” Clavin said. “I thank the Governor for understanding the positive impact that outdoor dining will bring and look forward to supporting these restaurants with an outdoor meal.”

Applicants who complete the process must ensure that an establishment adheres to the state-mandated guidelines under three categories: people, places and processes.

According to the state guidelines, “outdoor space” is defined as an open air space without a fixed roof. Within that space, all tables with seats must remain six feet away from any other table, seat, patron, or pedestrian.  Individuals seated at the same tables must be members of the same party, with a maximum of 10 people per table.

Patrons must wear face coverings at all times except while seated, provided they are over the age of 2 and able to medically tolerate one.  Acceptable face coverings include, but are not limited to, cloth, surgical mask, and face shields.

Employees must wear face masks at all times and must practice hand hygiene along with using bare hand barriers consistent with state and local sanitary codes.  Employees who are bussing tables must wash their hands with soap and water and replace gloves before and after cleaning and disinfecting tables.

All eateries are required by the state to provide their employees with the proper personal protective equipment along with training on how to properly clean and disinfect themselves throughout the course of a shift.

Restaurants are required to have designated entrances and exit points for patrons to safely use without crossing paths with someone else. Designated areas for pickup and takeout meals are required along with a taped or painted surface to ensure social distancing measures while patrons wait on any line at the counter or for the bathroom.

Along with outdoor dining, barbershops, hair salons, real estate offices, retail and professional and administrative services will open their doors again as part of the state’s second phase of reopening.

Phase three includes dine-in restaurants, and phase four would include large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events.

Two weeks must pass before the next part of the plan is implemented, Cuomo said, in order to effectively monitor its impact.  He said two weeks covers the incubation period of the virus.

Cuomo said business owners must analyze the precautions and safeguards that will need to be potentially addressed for each individual business.

No more than 50 percent of the maximum capacity of a workplace can be used, protective equipment such as masks and gloves must be worn, and social distancing must be adhered to for all phases, according to the guidelines.

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