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Rockville Centre welcomes Phase Two reopening of businesses

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The local economy is slowly coming back to life as more businesses reopen in Rockville Centre this week. As the number of cases of Covid-19 continues to decline, the list of businesses allowed to reopen in Phase Two of the state timetable now includes barbershops and hair salons, real estate services and offices, and in-store sales are now allowed.

Last week it was also announced that restaurants could offer outdoor dining beginning Wednesday. While this is good news, business owners are still facing uncertainties about the impact that reopening in the middle of a pandemic will have on them.

“As businesses reopen, they will not be returning to business as usual,” Mayor Francis X. Murray cautioned. “Each business and industry must have a plan to protect employees and customers, making physical work spaces safer, and implement processes that lower the risk of infection in the businesses.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order allowing outdoor dining last week, after the Chamber of Commerce took up the subject at its May 28 meeting. The Village is waiving its outdoor dining permit fee for restaurants, though they are required to submit applications and diagrams of their seating plans to the Building Department in order to be approved.

The chamber debated the idea of closing streets to create more seating, and the village plans to hold a public hearing on the subject on June 18. For now, restaurants are taking advantage of the opportunity to have seating on sidewalks and making use of patio and parking lot space.

Art Sorenson, the owner of Bonefish Grill, on Sunrise Highway, said he had downloaded the outdoor-dining application from the village website, and hoped to expand his outdoor dining area once it was approved. “We’re working with the village to get it done,” Sorenson said, “and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the outdoor dining opportunity this week.”

Maureen Robb, marketing director of the George Martin Group, said that both of its Rockville Centre restaurants will have outdoor seating. There will be three bistro tables set up on the sidewalk in front of George Martin the Original, on North Park Avenue, and six to eight tables in the private parking lot behind the restaurant, which Robb said has been dubbed a “parking lot patio.” At GM Burger Bar, on North Long Beach Road, Robb said, the village was allowing an extension of the outdoor seating area to accommodate about 20 people.

“We’re very excited about it,” Robb said. “Of course, it’s all weather-permitting, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

In-person dining is set to resume during Phase Three of the reopening, which is scheduled to begin in Nassau County on June 24, if the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths remains steady or continues to decline.

While restaurants have taken a hit, many have managed to remain open for takeout and delivery. Hair salons, on the other hand, have been closed since mid-March. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran called the planned opening of barbershops and salons “great news,” and said that Cuomo’s order gives “our business owners the certainty they need to reopen safely.”

For Glass Beauty Bar, the closure has meant not so much a lack of work as a loss of business. Co-owner Steven Picciano said the salon has been preparing to reopen by making sure that physical distancing and sanitation protocols are in place. The entire space has been deep-cleaned and treated with anti-microbial steam, and furniture has been removed in order to spread out the work stations.

For now, Picciano explained, clients are being asked to come in with their hair clean and dry to reduce the need to share chairs at hair-washing sinks and potentially spread germs by moving around. Additionally, the waiting area has been eliminated. Clients must call when they arrive, wait outside, and sanitize their hands and sign a health questionnaire and waiver when they enter. And the salon is required to keep a detailed client log, Picciano said, to facilitate potential contact tracing.

“We have to be prepared to handle the situation, and this is the best and simplest way to provide information so it doesn’t come back to us,” Picciano said of the waiver. “We abide by the same protocols, so we’re acknowledging that we’re both doing all that we can to stay safe.”

Glass Beauty Bar is booked for the rest of the month, having given priority to clients who had to cancel when it closed in March. Each of three stylists will see five clients a day, in stark contrast to the typical 15 to 22. As well, face-to-face conversation must be limited. The stylists may get bored, Picciano, acknowledged, or they may find a pace that suits them, but, either way, the salon is ready to reopen.

“I’m looking forward to working again,” he said, “and I know my team is prepared and understands the importance of following the protocols.”