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Long Beach restaurants hungry for Phase 3 reopening after months of shutdown

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Alexis Trolf, owner of the Lost And Found and the Lost At Sea, both restaurants in Long Beach's West End, is looking forward to the Phase 3 reopening beginning Wednesday, June 24 - cautiously.

"I think it's a crap shoot for us," Trolf said earlier this week. The trouble? Trolf's restaurants are small. Lost And Found seats about 20 people, and Lost At Sea about the same or fewer.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Phase 3 re-opening allows restaurants to serve people indoors as well as outdoors. Trolf is one owner who is not anxious to pack diners into small spaces, possibly violating social distancing requirements.

"Our places are very small and tightly packed," Trolf said. He has a large table at the Lost And Found that can seat eight, but he is not sure if that would violate the guidelines.

Phase 2 allowed restaurants to serve diners out of doors only but, was a big shot-in-the-arm for Trolf. Now, he is not sure how much benefit Phase 3 will be for him. He most wants, he says, to be " a responsible business owner," following the rules set out by New York State.

And Trolf is worried about the future.

"The experts say there could be a second wave" of the coronavirus, Trolf said. That, he said, would mean an about-face on all the reopenings so far.

Overall, Phase 3 is being welcomed in Long Beach as a boost to restaurants, nail salons, barbershops and other businesses that have been shut or partially open since March.

"For restaurants, this is a big deal," said Ian Danby, chairman of Long Beach's Chamber of Commerce. "For the nail salons, it's also a big deal." Many restaurants, Danby said, have been able to serve only a handful of customers out of doors. The number will be larger in Phase 3.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Long Beach hard. On Friday, June 19, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at a press conference that Long Beach had over 750 confirmed cases of Covid-19. Curran was in Long Beach to announce that a Mount Sinai Primary Care Center in Long Beach would begin offering coronavirus testing to all barrier beach residents, not just those enrolled in the hospital's system.

Since the norovirus hit, Long Beach's unemployment rate has soared, to about 14.2 percent, from 3.5 percent just before the pandemic began, in March, according to statistics from the New York State Department of Labor. Long Beach's unemployment rate is among the highest in Nassau County.

While Covid-19 cases are spiking in some states, there has been a decrease of the virus in Nassau County, said County Health Department spokeswoman Maryellen Lorrain. She said that the most recent figures showed that under 1 percent of approximately 5,000 people tested positive for the disease,

But Danby said he worried that some businesses will not survive the pandemic.

'We will continue to see" how many businesses survive, Danby said. Many had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars during the shutdown.

At Swingbellys, a popular BBQ spot in the West End, Jake Marlin, an owner, is looking forward to Phase 3. Swingbellus can fit 50 diners inside, and only a handful outside,

"This will be a big step for us," Marlin said. "Each Phase of opening has been good for us."

Lee Zaocao, owner of Sue's Nails on Park Avenue, said, "We are expecting a lot of customers" later this week. "A lot of people made reservations." Many said they had been unable to have their hair or nails done during the lockdown, and looked forward to getting out.

But there are concerns in Long Beach. On Saturday night, June 20, Long Beach police reported, large crowds gathered on the boardwalk at Edwards Boulevard, celebrating a graduation or a birthday. According to Danby, the crowds left garbage on the beach. Police said some bottles were thrown at a police car. There were no injuries or arrests, police said. Photographs of the gathering showed few were wearing masks or observing social distancing.

Restaurants are looking ahead.

Edwin Ramos, a manager at Brix & Barley on West Park Avenue, said the staff was arranging to seat inside, so about 70 diners could be accommodated, not just the few who sat at an outdoor patio during Phase 2. Masks, social distancing and sanitizers will be mandatory, Ramos said. Staff will have temperatures taken before each shift.

"We got a lot of phone calls," for reservations, Ramos said.