Restaurants have suffered a serious economic decline during the coronavirus but that may soon change. Nassau is on track to begin Phase Three reopening of businesses on Wednesday, June 24, according to County Executive Laura Curran and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
During the Third Phase, restaurants will be permitted to open for inside, in-person dining, provided employees and patrons wear masks, and six feet of social distancing is maintained between tables. Spas will also be allowed to reopen.
Peter Van Der Mije, of Lattingtown, who owns Osteria Leana, a fine dining Italian eatery, will have 20 seats available in his Oyster Bay restaurant. He has had a light installed through the air conditioning system that kills germs, he said and a few modifications have been done inside the restaurant. “Servers will push the door to the kitchen with their hip so they don’t touch the doorknob which is alarmed now,” he said. “We’ve divided the crew, half working the a.m. shift and the other half working the p.m. shift so they don’t come into contact with each other.”
Van Der Mije said he has been following New York State Health Department guidelines since the beginning and is doing more than is required from the industry.
Restaurants will only be permitted to reopen indoors at 50 percent capacity, according to the governor’s New York Forward website. The maximum number of people per table will be 10.
Gabe Haim, co-owner of Oyster Bay Brewing Co., said he will be opening his tasting room at 50 percent capacity with 20 seats available. He will also be adding three tables to the brewery’s back sidewalk. He and his partner Ryan Schlotter have had three tables out front since Phase Two that seated nine people.
Small businesses in the hamlet have never really had outdoor dining, Schlotter said. “Now is the time to make money wherever you can. We are allowed to do this until October,” he said.
He is hoping that business will return to normal after that. In the meantime, Oyster Bay Brewing will be following all of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandates.
“We will keep people distant at the tables and there won’t be any seating at the bar,” Haim said. “At the bar people are too close to the bartender.”
And customers will no longer go to the bar to order a drink. There will now be only table service, Haim said.
Seven New York regions have already entered Phase Three. Only Long Island, New York City and Mid-Hudson have not.
Cuomo said at his daily briefing on June 18 that he was in a “happy-go-lucky mood” because New York had tested 68,000 people overnight and found an average infection rate of .9 percent — the lowest it had been since the coronavirus pandemic began in mid-March.
New York City’s infection rate was 1 percent, while Long Island’s was .7 percent.
By contrast, the infection rate had earlier reached 20 percent in New York City and 16 percent on Long Island.
The number of Covid-19 deaths ticked up statewide overnight, from 17 to 29.
The governor insisted that businesses must keep up coronavirus safeguards. He issued an executive order on June 18 giving local authorities the power to immediately shut down businesses that do not maintain safety protocols. Bars and restaurants that do not can lose their liquor licenses.
Haim said people will be required to wear masks if they get up from their tables. Also, the restrooms will be cleaned after every person uses them and every 30-40 minutes at the Oyster Bay Brewery. And disposable menus will be printed each day.
Van Der Mije said the menus at Osteria Leana are also disposable. The offerings for now will be pared-down, he said. “There will be specials each day and we will provide unique dishes for our loyal fans,” he said. “We have our basic classic items too.”
Osteria Leana saw a 20 percent jump in business from Phase One to Phase Two. “If we see that in Phase Three I will be hopeful,” Van Der Mije said. “The dynamic has changed. Things you would have never thought were an asset now are, like having a private parking lot for tables.”
Schlotter, who is also the president of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce, said their website has become a one stop shop for residents to find out what’s going on, including promotions, what the local pantry is doing or needs and all of the new mandates from the governor.
Thrusday he learned of a $6,000 PSEG grant for chambers to dole out to small businesses for reimbursement for the cost of providing outdoor seating. “There are costs, like lighting, seating,” Schlotter explained. “I’m taking the applications now from our members and hope to cut checks soon. PSEG also said they would give more money on a case by case basis.”
The businesses are excited to open, Schlotter said, and they need their customers to come back. They are a bit nervous about crowd control though. “Businesses don’t want to have conversations with people about not wearing their mask,” Schlotter said. “It’s awkward. But the last thing we all want is a second wave.”