During the Sea Cliff village board’s virtual meeting on Monday, Lisa Larsen-Hill, co-chair of the Kiwanis Club of North Shore Long Island’s Mini Mart committee, announced that the club would not be applying for the permit to stage the Sea Cliff Mini Mart this year, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Edward Lieberman said it would be difficult to limit the crowds on to Sea Cliff Avenue if the festival were to take place as scheduled on Oct. 4. He also said the Kiwanis had until late August to decide on whether to apply.
Larsen-Hill thanked the board for its discussion and said she looked forward to a time when the coronavirus is not the center of attention, but added that it was in the best interests of the club and the fair’s many vendors and attendees to make the announcement now.
Larsen-Hill said this is the first year in which Mini Mart has been canceled since then Kiwanis President Arthur Hubbs brought the event under the club’s leadership in 1969. It had been postponed because of bad weather in the past and as recently as 2010, she said, after which it was turned into a rain-or-shine event, because many of its vendors schedule their work around it.
Each year, Mini Mart brings thousands of visitors to eight blocks of Sea Cliff Avenue. Village Trustee Elena Villafane said she had spoken with the Fire Department about what could be done about crowd control and social distancing, and was told it would be “a recipe for disaster.”
The Kiwanians were hoping to get Mini Mart going in Phase 5 of the state’s reopening protocols, Larsen-Hill said, with about half of the regular vendors. But the unlikelihood of that happening, she said, forced the club to make a difficult decision.
As of now, she said, “it just doesn’t look like we’re getting to Phase 5, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to go through with these plans, because we couldn’t go through with the social distancing plans.”
Lieberman said he respected the club’s decision, as it would likely not be in the best interest of the village, its residents or visitors to bring so many people into so small an area. Since the Nassau County Fair and the Oyster Fest have been canceled, along with dozens of other events over the past four months, he said, it was the right call for Mini Mart as well.
“It’s the new reality that we have to deal with,” Lieberman said, “and as mayor specifically, these types of decisions don’t come easy, but my sworn duty is to my constituents and to ensure that their health and well-being is secured.”
Larsen-Hill said that nonprofits, including Kiwanis, the Rotary Club, the Fire Department and the Sea Cliff Glen Head Lions Club, which rely heavily on revenue from Mini Mart, will have to find different ways to raise money for their various causes.
Mini Mart is a special day for the community, she said, acquainting non-residents with the village’s unique atmosphere and giving residents a chance to enjoy everything it has to offer.
Kiwanis President Roger Hill described the event as marking the opening of the holiday season. Although it takes place on the first Sunday of October, he said, many people do their holiday shopping there. Its cancelation will cost many local businesses one of their most profitable days of the year.
“I feel like we’re going to miss it so much, but I couldn’t see a way for it to be done safely,” said Kathleen DiResta, owner of the K. DiResta Collective on Sea Cliff Avenue. “Not only is it a big community event that’s great for the artists, the businesses and live music in town, it’s a big day of sales for a lot of artists and stores as well.”
Steve Warshaw, president of the Gold Coast Business Association, said safety comes before everything else, including business. “I think it’s a very smart thing for them to have canceled this event this year,” he said. “It will save lives, and it could save our economy in the long run.”
For now, Lieberman and Larsen-Hill said they are looking toward 2021 with the hopes of bringing Mini Mart back. “We can only hope that next year we’ll be rid of this virus and we can get back to our normal lives,” the mayor said.
“We hope with all our hearts that the businesses are still thriving, and that we’ll have the opportunity to have them next year,” Larsen-Hill said, adding, “It’s about heart, it’s about hope, and I think we all just need that right now.”