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North Shore eateries prepare to move indoors

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As the sun sets earlier and the weather gets colder with the approaching winter, outdoor dining options which helped restaurants stay afloat over the spring and summer may be coming to an end. While this will inevitably change how eateries run in the coming months, several North Shore restaurateurs have figured out ways to adapt and keep their businesses afloat.

Rob Mansfield, owner of Grassroots in Glen Head, said customers have not been allowed inside the building since the pandemic hit. He built an entire outdoor area which can safely seat at least 45 people, he said, and placing new heaters in the area will enable it to be used in colder weather as well. He said another outside area will be built out with a fire pit, which will serve as another safe outdoor dining area.

Grassroots will also have indoor dining soon, Mansfield said. He said the space will be able to fit roughly 25 people, and moveable partitions will enable parties to have their own space separate from other customers. Additionally, crews will come into the restaurant regularly to clean the space, he said, giving customers even more peace of mind while inside.

“Health is not just physical — it’s mental as well,” Mansfield said. “I want people to know that Grassroots is a completely safe place to be in.”

“We still want to be there for our friends and neighbors and loved ones,” he later added. “You just have to be careful, smart and respectful, and that’s what we do.”

In June, the Village of Sea Cliff allowed restaurants on Sea Cliff Avenue to set up tables in the street by blocking the area off from traffic on Friday and Saturday evenings. This was a huge benefit to Still Partners, co-owner Dan Roth said, because the restaurant does not have a private outdoor dining space.

As customers begin to move inside, Roth said the state’s maximum allowance of 50 allows roughly 43 customers to be in the restaurant. He said its interior is being reorganized to comfortably and safely accommodate as many people as possible, which includes putting up partitions between parties. People sitting at the bar need to be spaced out, he said, and partitions for those customers may be built as well.

Moving inside can be tough for Still Partners, Roth said, but they will make do with what they have. Nonetheless, he said he is looking forward to a Covid-19 vaccine, whenever that may arrive.

Sea Cliff’s Metropolitan Bistro has a large back area with plenty of outdoor seating, although owner Bill Long said customers can no longer sit there. However, the restaurant does have a front patio, and Long said he borrowed roughly $30,000 from the Small Business Administration to construct an awning over the area.

Long said the awning will also come with heat and enclosed sides, providing up to 22 customers with a warm place to eat. This, when coupled with the available dining inside the restaurant, will bring its total number of available seats to 50.

The pandemic has hit the Metropolitan hard, Long said, and bad weather will make it so most of its business will be done on Fridays and Saturday nights. He said could be difficult to get through the winter this way and the restaurant will try to turn over tables as quickly as possible. He said hopes people everywhere adhere to statewide pandemic policies like wearing masks and social distancing in any setting.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and this has been the most I’ve seen in 50 years in terms of unpredictability in business,” Long said. “It’s a little tough.”

Jay Jadeja, owner of the Onion Tree in Sea Cliff, said colder weather could present some challenges, given customers’ reticence to come inside the restaurant. He said the restaurant is still seating customers outside with the presence of heaters, which is important to the business given its max capacity of 20 indoor diners under the state’s current 50 percent capacity laws.

“We’re trying our best to stay afloat,” Jadeja said, “and to survive the winter.”