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Restaurants prepare for the winter

Split the Bill NY to come to Baldwin


As colder weather creeps in and winter approaches, Baldwin restaurants, which may no longer be able to serve patrons outdoors, are preparing and winterizing.

Kitty O’Hara’s, on Merrick Road in Baldwin, has installed plastic curtains around its outdoor dining area in the back, near the parking lot of the Baldwin Public Library. Employees have also set up a few electric heaters to keep patrons warm if they choose to dine in the spacious outdoor area.

“It’ll help us stretch out our outdoor business into the winter,” said Kitty O’Hara’s manager Shay Leavy, adding that the clear curtains shield patrons from the wind and make the space feel warmer.

There are at least five tables set up outside, in addition to a couple of open-air tables, which patrons can use if the weather is fair. Leavy said patrons are more apt to use the open-air tables in good weather, like there was this past weekend, when temperatures reached past 70 degrees.

And the plastic curtain enclosure is not completely closed, but open on the bottom to allow airflow through the area. The curtains were set up about a month ago, and there are also a few TVs in the outdoor dining area. 

Leavy said he has noticed that some people will not dine inside, and only feel comfortable outside. But Kitty’s, like all New York restaurants, is able to accept patrons indoors up to 50 percent capacity. Patrons are seated at every other booth.

Leavy said he expects more people will want to come inside once the weather drops to the 30s. He said locals who patronize the business regularly have dined with no problems.

Additionally, Kitty’s has opted into a program in Baldwin on Nov. 12 called Split the Bill NY. Leavy said it’s a great idea to boost local business.

Split the Bill NY is an initiative that encourages people to support local restaurants by having them dine in or order out from any of the participating restaurants and then be reimbursed for half of their bills.

Customers can submit a reimbursement form through the Split the Bill NY website confirming purchase of their meal and, within a week, will receive a reimbursement for 50 percent of their restaurant receipt, up to $30 via PayPal or Venmo.

Participating restaurants in Baldwin for the one-day program include Kitty O’Hara’s, the Baldwin Coach Diner, Basil Leaf Grill, Coalhouse Grill, Defrancisco’s, Gino’s Pizzeria, Long Island Bagel Cafe, Lucas Dominican Restaurant, New Old Venice Inn, R.A.J. Mexican Grill, Sonny’s Canal House, Swirl Bliss and The Irish Pub.

The charitable initiative is created and funded by the Sidgmore Family Foundation, a private family foundation that has roots on Long Island. A total of $100,000 has been allotted for Split the Bill NY to be spread across multiple phases in various towns. There are no fees for restaurants to become involved.

Previous campaigns have taken place in Valley Stream, Farmingdale, Westbury and Hempstead. The campaigns have driven more than $84,000 in total retail spent in local municipalities, according to a news release.

Baldwin Civic Association members spread the word about the initiative on Facebook, advising interested people to take photos of their meals and receipts and submit them no later than 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 12.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said John Kanaras, owner of the Baldwin Coach Diner. “I hope people take advantage of it.”

The diner, which has been a Baldwin staple for more than 50 years, remained open throughout the pandemic.

“When we weren’t able to be open, we’re grateful for the people that were able to come,” Kanaras said of the early days of the pandemic, when patrons picked up meals or received deliveries. “We’re grateful for all those people, because they helped keep us afloat during that time.”