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Covid-19 cases rise in the City of Long Beach

Eateries, bars struggle as state orders earlier closings

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Cases of Covid-19, which were reported less frequently during the late summer months, have been rising in Long Beach in the past few weeks, officials warned at a City Council meeting Tuesday night.

John McNally, executive assistant to the city manager, said there had been 57 positive cases in the preceding seven days, and that the city had been seeing six to eight cases per day. By contrast, in the spring and early summer, there were about 100 per week.

“We’re not there,” McNally said, “but we have a level of concern.”

Long Beach’s restaurants and bars, wobbling ever since the pandemic spread to New York in March, were hit with more bad news last week, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered them, along with gyms and bowling alleys, to close at 10 p.m. — in some cases, several hours earlier than in the recent weeks.

Business had picking up in the warmer weather two weeks ago, and 50 percent seating capacity seemed to be working out well, a number of proprietors said.

According to the Nassau County Department of Health, there were 54,309 Covid-19 cases in the county as of Monday. In Long Beach, there were 1,048. Countywide, officials said, the number of cases has risen about 3 percent in the last few weeks.

Cuomo’s earlier-closing order went into effect Friday night.

“It’s a resurgence,” McNally said. “It is concerning, and it means everyone must redouble their efforts” to fight the virus — including wearing masks and washing hands frequently.

“Long Beach’s numbers are higher than the numbers in surrounding communities,” City Council President John Bendo said. “We don’t want to go back to shutdowns.”

Ian Danby, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, said that Cuomo’s mandate would help reduce cases of the virus, “but it’s certainly not going to help the businesses.” He added that in recent weeks, he had walked past bars and restaurants and noticed too many people not wearing masks and not socially distancing.

Jamie Dowling, owner of Speakeasy, a Prohibition-themed establishment on West Beech Street, said he was disappointed by the new restrictions. “We just hired someone to work at night,” Dowling said. Speakeasy had been open until 2 a.m. and had a steady late-night crowd that accounted for a hefty chunk of its business.

Henry Zelasquez, the general manager of Brixx and Barley, on West Park Avenue, said he wasn’t looking forward to the next few weeks, with the restaurant forced to shut down earlier and colder weather putting an end to outdoor dining. “All of this takes a big toll on us,” Zelasquez said, adding that the eatery would now rely more heavily on deliveries. “We’ve got to stay positive and keep motivated,” he said.

The Saloon, on West Beech, had been open until after midnight, owner Phil Garry said, and those few hours would make a difference in his bottom line. “We pay for a liquor license,” Garry said. “You cut our hours, it’s going to hurt.” His customers, he said, would have to start clearing out well before they’re used to.

Matt Vascellara, general manager of JJ Coopers, on Park Avenue, sounded glum on Sunday night. Cuomo’s order, Vascellara said, “seemed to deter people from coming out. What we saw this Friday and Saturday night was a slowing down of business. We’re going into a regression.”