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Lynbrook restaurateur looks ahead to uncertain cold months

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Despite the unseasonably warm weather as of late, many restaurant owners in East Rockaway, Lynbrook and across Nassau County will soon have to adjust their business models with the cold months looming.

Frank Abbracciamento, the owner of Abbracciamento’s at 174 Merrick Road in Lynbrook, said he would soon have to put an end to outdoor dining because the weather will get cold and heaters are not cost efficient for their limited use. He added that his business has taken a significant hit since the coronavirus pandemic first began.

“Business is still off by 70 percent,” he said. “You’re busy on weekends, but the weekdays drag along. More people come out on the weekend, but I think it’s going to be a while before business returns. It’s not back yet at all.”

Abbracciamento’s opened in November 2019 and then had to close for five months starting in mid-March. Now, Abbracciamento said, he is trying his hardest to generate business. While he would like to continue to have outdoor dining into the winter, Abbracciamento said, it is unfeasible because it risks his staff getting sick by going from the hot kitchen to the cold outdoors, while he noted that heaters are expensive and he would have no place to store them in the warmer months.

Space is not an issue when it comes to seating in his restaurant, however, as he said he can comfortably seat patrons at three different sections while offering plenty of room to make them comfortable and safe. Nassau County restaurants can only seat up to 50 percent capacity, as mandated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. At full capacity, Abbracciamento’s seats 150 inside and 40 outdoors.

Abbracciamento has implemented other methods to ensure the health of his customers and staff, including mask wearing, sanitizing stations and spacing apart tables, but he said plenty of people are still wary of eating inside.

In addition to losing business, Abbracciamento said, the coronavirus has caused him to lay off eight employees because there isn’t enough work to go around. He now has nine staff members, who he alternates so they each have a chance to make money.

Though the virus has brought with it many obstacles for business owners, Abbracciamento said he was trying to stay positive.

“We opened for three months, closed for five months and we are trying to build back up again,” he said. “There are weeks where you’re not even covering your costs, but you’ve got to have the strong will to survive.”

Calls to several other Lynbrook and East Rockaway businesses were not returned.