Despite social distancing protocols that impact the capacity of businesses and restaurants, Five Towns business owners are feeling optimistic about their economic survival amid the coronavirus pandemic.
When Long Island entered Phase 3 of reopening on June 24, restaurants were allowed to use 50 percent of their capacity for indoor dining. Masks were and still are required for entering diners, but can be removed once they are seated. Outdoor dining was permitted when Long Island entered Phase 2 of reopening on June 10.
The region moved into Phase 4 on July 8, with museums, aquariums and other “low-risk” cultural establishments were allowed to reopen.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on June 18 giving local authorities the power to shut down businesses that do not maintain safety protocols. Bars and restaurants that do not can lose their liquor licenses.
Vito Vinceslao, owner of Friendlier Pizza and Restaurant in Woodmere, said that outdoor seating was a positive in terms of business. “As soon as we were able to seat people outside, we put up a big tent outside,” Vinceslao said. “We’re very fortunate the parking lot is well positioned for it, as the store next to us is empty, and the [Gourmet Glatt] supermarket is slower in the summer.”
Vinceslao noted that even with no indoor dining from mid-March through late June, business has remained steady, and he credits the restaurant’s “loyal customers.” “Some people are still hesitant to come out to the restaurant, and I understand that,” he said. “We’re very fortunate for our customers in this community that have kept coming back to us.” He added that he has not had to lay off any of his 20 employees.
While the pandemic has forced some businesses to close temporarily, Randy Rosner, manager of Bagel Boss, in Hewlett, said that the store has remained open. “Since Phase 3, I’d say that business has been OK for the most part,” Rosner said. “We’re not at 100 percent of what we usually do in business, but I’d say that we’re at 75 percent. To me, that is encouraging.”
Bagel Boss has been open for curbside and in-store pickup and delivery since the pandemic began, Rosner said, adding that when Phase 2 began, several tables were placed outside, as allowed by state guidelines.
“For indoor dining, we’re usually able to sit 60 people, but now we’re limited to about 25 to 30 people,” he said. “People are still coming in, and to me that’s a good sign for us going forward.”
Like Bagel Boss, Woodro Kosher Delicatessen and Restaurant, in Hewlett, has also remained open. Owner Gary Goldenshteyn said that he still offers delivery, non-contact curbside pickup, family meal deals and online ordering.
“Fortunately for us, people have still ordered from us throughout the pandemic,” he said. “Our indoor seating has decreased, as a good night for us now would be if one table is filled. Despite that, our business has been doing well.”
Goldenshteyn noted that he was grateful for the community’s support. “I’d like to thank everyone who has continued to come in during the pandemic,” he said. “Some may have stopped coming in due to a change in ownership, but I think the proof is in the pudding that our food is good.”
In Cedarhurst, businesses usually look forward to the annual multi-day Summer Sidewalk Sale in July. It has not yet been scheduled this summer. Deputy Mayor Ari Brown said the event serves as an economic engine for businesses that need to rev up revenue.
“If any of the stores have a down year in sales, the sidewalk sale can help put them over the top,” Brown said. “The [Business Improvement District] puts a lot of work into the sale, as we spend about $10,000 to $15,000 on advertising to spread the word about it.” Brown serves as the village liaison to the BID, which collects a portion of the village tax on commercial property. In conjunction with the village, the money is used for improvements and promotions in the business district.
Brown said the village has still not decided whether to hold the sidewalk sale this summer. “We’re prepared to hit the ground running, but this is such a fluid situation, as the rules are changing all the time,” he said of the pandemic. “I would say that 99.9 percent of the businesses in Cedarhurst are more than anxious to do it if it does happen.”
Along with the sidewalk sale, Cedarhurst hosts an annual summer concert series, and Brown said that, too, was “up in the air.”