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Glen Cove’s restaurants prepare to serve customers during Covid

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For much of the spring, summer and fall seasons, many Glen Cove diners could be found at tables stretched across School and Glen streets in the Downtown Glen Cove area, enjoying their meals at a safe, social distance and in the open, fresh air.

This past weekend, in fact, had temperatures peeking into the 70’s, inspiring the Glen Cove City Council to pass a resolution to extend street closures through the weekend. “We were happy because there was a lot of traffic here at School Street, where we are located,” said Elsa Vallet, from the Morris Café. “But for this [upcoming] weekend I don’t know if the mayor will allow us to put out tables again. I think it depends on the weather.”

As the winter season approaches, Glen Cove restaurant owners are beginning to wonder how they will accommodate customers who wish to dine in when the restaurants can only be filled to 50 percent capacity. Some have placed space heaters outside to keep customers comfortable as long as possible.

“Many of our downtown restaurants that are participating in outdoor dining are going to hold onto it as long as possible,” said Patricia Holman, the executive director of the Glen Cove Downtown Business Improvement District. “However, they are all very nervous about it, as they should be. I spoke with a couple of them and they said they are going to start promoting again their curbside pickup and their delivery as they did have to do in March.”

Carlo Lubrano, an owner of La Bussola Restaurant in Downtown Glen Cove, said he is hoping the warmer weather continues for as long as possible. He has placed heaters outside his establishment for when it is cold in the hope of increasing the amount of customers the restaurant will serve when the autumn becomes chilly and during the winter months as well.

Because restaurants are not legally allowed to place heaters under tents, Lubrano said the restaurant is also working to find a way to heat the restaurant’s tent in a safe and legal way.

“It’s tough because the weather does drop,” he said.

If the winter is not mild as it was last year, Lubrano said, the seating area with heaters will no longer be usable and the restaurant seating area will be down to the interior of the restaurant, along with the enclosed tent area. “It will deter hardcore outdoor diners from coming out,” he said.

Lubrano said he’s already seen diners turn down eating inside the tents or the restaurant, as they feel the most comfortable eating in open space with the heaters. He’s hoping that as the weather gets colder and outdoor dining will not be an option anymore that those customers will continue to order take out. “It’s tough,” Lubrano said. “We’re all new to this. This is new territory for everybody. As the months progress we’re finding what changes we need to make.”

Jeanine Dimenna of The View Grill said she has also been doing everything she can to increase the amount of customers that can be served and to accommodate outdoor diners during cooler months. “We have quite a few heaters and fire pit areas,” Dimenna said of the restaurant’s outdoor spaces. “They come with coats on. We have had a couple times where we put heaters on tables. We’re trying. Basically what we’re doing is throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks.”

In the restaurant’s indoor area, Dimenna said there are now eight tables instead of the traditional 23, leaving plenty of space for diners. There are also three private dining rooms. “We’re not trying to fit as many tables as we can,” Dimenna said. “We’re making sure that everybody is safe. We’ve also hired a company that comes in once a week and they sanitize the whole restaurant.”

“We wear our masks all day in the kitchen, we wear gloves,” Dimenna said. “We’re adapting to it.”

John Zozzaro, the owner of Downtown Café, said that the restaurant has room for 25 customers inside with public health guidelines. “It’s going to be hard to survive on 50 percent capacity because we lost the bar business completely, so that’s not existent,” he said. “But we’re trying to do the best we can.”

If there is not seating or if customers are uncomfortable with eating inside, Zozzaro is encouraging customers to continue ordering takeout or delivery on food or cocktails. “We’ll still have tables and chairs outside if it’s not too cold and we have plenty of heaters out on the sidewalk as well,” he said.

“Have delivery, order in and keep supporting them this way,” Holman said. “I think Glen Cove did a wonderful job in supporting our local businesses at the start of the pandemic and I just ask for our community to continue doing this so when spring comes back around and we can do outdoor dining or we don’t have to worry about Covid anymore, our businesses are still there.”