It was an exciting morning for the staff at Plattduetsche Park on June 10, when they saw several families waiting for a chance to eat at the restaurant before they even opened the gates at 11 a.m.
The German biergarten was one of the first establishments to close when Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all “non-essential” businesses to close in March due to its large size, General Manager Matt Buck explained. So, he said, it was a joyous experience when everyone got to see their co-workers for the first time in 17 weeks on the first day restaurants in New York State were permitted to offer outdoor dining.
Under Cuomo’s guidance, restaurants must have tables spaced six-feet apart, and are only allowed to operate at half their capacities to allow outdoor dining. Additionally, all staff members are required to wear face coverings, while customers must wear face coverings whenever they are not at their table. Employees must also be tested for Covid-19, and if anyone tests positive for it, the restaurant owners are required to notify the State Department of Health.
To meet those requirements, all guests at Plattduetsche must walk through a back gate, where hosts take their temperatures before escorting them to a table and explaining the rules, including that everyone must wear masks in the common areas and stay six-feet apart while waiting for the bathroom. The staff also spray painted six-foot perimeters around each table, and is required to wear facemasks and visors.
“Everyone’s health is our number one priority,” Buck said, adding that he was glad that all of the staff’s hard work paid off.
Throughout the town, residents could be spotted sitting outside local restaurants and enjoying the nice weather.
Stew Gregory and John Regan, for example, got drinks at Trotters Bar & Grill, while sitting at different tables. The two are regulars at the bar, where Manager Nick Altilio received a permit for outdoor dining from the Town of Hempstead for 16 seats in the rear of the restaurant and 36 in the front.
The bar and grill had been closed for 87 days, during which time Altilio occupied himself with painting his garage and his deck. He said he was glad to be back at work, and Gregory noted that he wanted to support the restaurant when it reopened. “This is a start,” Gregory said of the reopening, “and this too shall pass,” he said of the pandemic.
Down the road, several residents also made the most of the nice weather while eating traditional Italian dishes at Alpine Restaurant.
At one table, Janet and George Beyer enjoyed dessert with Elmont resident Ray Arledge. The trio normally meets at the restaurant every Saturday, but has not been able to since the pandemic began. She said she was “ecstatic” to be back, and “it’s so nice to be out.”
But this time, Janet said, she and George made the trip to Franklin Square from Mineola especially to see waitress Elizabeth Papadoniou on her birthday. “Elizabeth is terrific,” Janet said. “She’s a great waitress and a great friend.”
In response, Papadoniou called the customers “sweethearts” and said she loves to see them every day.
Maria Fitzsimmons, another customer, said she decided to stop at the food establishment to see her friends, and Jay Bonin, sitting at the table next to Fitzsimmons, said he was happy to eat at a restaurant with waitress service again, calling Alpine “a staple of the neighborhood” that he wants to see succeed.
Other restaurateurs are also preparing to offer outdoor dining. Salvatore’s of Elmont opened its outdoor dining space on June 19, and Michele Galo, the owner of Little Enrico’s Pizzeria, said the Town of Hempstead approved her request for an outdoor dining permit on June 9, and was in the process of getting more tables and chairs to accommodate guests.