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Rockville Centre businesses prepared for Phase Three

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Rockville Centre was eager to begin Phase 3 of New York state’s reopening protocols on Wednesday.

During the third phase, restaurants will be permitted to open for indoor, in-person dining at 50 percent capacity, provided employees and patrons wear masks and tables are spaced six feet apart, with no more than 10 people per table. Spas will also be allowed to reopen.

“We’re thankful for everyone’s support so far,” Chamber of Commerce President Brian Croutier said, “and we encourage everyone to continue to shop local, eat local and stay safe.”

“We’re excited and are hoping people will feel comfortable enough to come inside the restaurant again,” said Suzanne Raspanti, manager of George Martin the Original. “We’re lucky enough to have a big floor plan, so we have lots of room to expand.”

The restaurant, on North Park Avenue, will have room for 18 tables on the main floor and seven more upstairs, in addition to the nine in its “parking lot patio” at the back of the building.

The indoor space will be professionally cleaned and sanitized the day before it opens, and all tables will be sanitized between customers. They will be given single-use menus, and will be required to wear masks when they enter and when they walk through the restaurant.

“Most people are appreciative and understanding when they hear the rules,” Raspanti said. “We have to build this into our normal routine.”

Since it began offering outdoor dining on June 10, George Martin has offered an abbreviated menu, which it plans to continue for the next few weeks before reintroducing some of its signature dishes.

“People have been coming here for 30 years, and we’re really looking forward to seeing our regulars again,” Raspanti said.

San Remo is also preparing to serve customers inside, with 10 to 12 tables six feet apart. “We’re eager — we can’t wait,” owner Ralph Mekic said. “Outdoor dining helped for those couple weeks. And this will help, too.”

Throughout the pandemic, Mekic said, paying the bills has been the biggest challenge. “And you know, there’s a lot, trying to keep the guys, trying to pay the workers, payroll, pay the rent,” he said. “In the long run, I would not be able to survive. But if we start reopening and getting back to normal, and everybody is doing what they’re required — wearing masks, gloves, everything that needs to be done to keep infections down on a daily basis — then we’re OK. But we have to behave. That is key.”

Spas will also only be able to open at 50 percent capacity, with safety protocols. Waiting rooms will be closed.

Seven New York regions had already entered Phase 3. Only Long Island, New York City and Mid-Hudson had not.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his next-to-last 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 governor insisted that businesses must keep up coronavirus safeguards. He issued an executive order that day 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.