With the coronavirus pandemic taking a heavy toll on small businesses, local eateries have had to think outside the box — or dining room — to stay afloat. Many restaurateurs scrambled to set up outdoor dining this summer, if their properties were suitable for it. But with colder weather rapidly approaching, business owners are preparing to shut down outdoor dining, which could affect their bottom lines.
For Gusto Divino Trattoria, on Sunrise Highway in Seaford, outdoor dining has been a blessing. Transforming the parking lot into a makeshift dining room with a tent and space heaters, owner Mike Glavatovic has been able to serve a majority of his customers outdoors.
“We have about 12 tables outdoors for outdoor dining, and we are still using those outdoor tables now,” Glavatovic said. “We have a tent for the tables. We will do it as long as it is possible.”
Glavatovic said Nassau County has extended outdoor dining permits through Dec. 31. Whether Gusto Divino is serving diners that long is entirely up to the weather, the owner said.
“We have heaters, but we are playing it by ear with the weather,” Glavatovic said.
Once the weather turns cold, Gusto Divino will serve patrons in its dining room at 50 percent capacity. It also offers takeout for those who wish to order food but would rather eat at home.
Mulcahy’s, on Railroad Avenue in Wantagh, has no outdoor dining, but the spacious interior and an extension built last year allow the eatery to fit many while spacing tables 10 to 12 feet apart.
“Luckily for us, we have one of the biggest places around,” said Tim Murray, talent buyer at Mulcahy’s and son of owner John Murray Jr. “We do have plenty of seating, and we are rarely at capacity.”
Murray said Mulcahy’s strictly enforces mask wearing, including when patrons use the restrooms. Servers must regularly answer a Covid-19 questionnaire.
Circle M Diner in Wantagh also does not have outdoor seating, but has a large dining room that is open at 50 percent capacity. Its normal capacity is 150 patrons.
“Covid-19 has definitely had an effect on all of our small businesses, including our restaurants,” Seaford Chamber of Commerce President Nick Bilotta said. “A lot of people are still skeptical of sitting next to one another right now.”
Bilotta said he understands that the loss of outdoor dining during the winter will hurt a number of eateries. He also said restaurants are vital to Seaford, and he cautiously encouraged neighbors to eat at local restaurants if they feel safe doing so and, if not, ordering takeout.
“We have to keep encouraging people to shop local, and that goes for restaurants, too,” he said. “Obviously our mission is to keep everybody open.”