Outdoor dining has been added to the list of permissible activities that can resume under Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
The Long Island region is on track to begin the second phase June 10, he added Thursday.
“COVID-19 is still a real threat and we’re still battling it. I know it’s not on the front pages today, but it is still in people and in society,” Mr. Cuomo said. “But thanks to the people of New York and the nurses, doctors and essential workers, today we have the lowest number of hospitalizations ever and we have the lowest death toll ever. We are continuously evaluating activities that can be safely reopened, and today we are adding outdoor seating at restaurants to phase two,” he said.
Outdoor tables must be placed six feet apart and all staff members are required to wear face coverings, according to the governor’s office. Customers, when not seated at their table to dine, must also wear face masks.
Officials locally are already preparing to allow restaurants to serve outdoors in advance of Phase 2 beginning.
According to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, plans are in place to fast track outdoor dining approvals under the Suffolk County Department of Health.
Restaurants in Riverhead may now apply for outdoor dining permits that could see tables placed in public spaces. The town board voted last week to waive fees for outdoor dining permits.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell announced the town would issue temporary permits for restaurants to allow outdoor dining. The permits, Mr. Russell said, will be free of charge to help businesses regain their footing after a three-month shutdown.
“We are confident that by instituting these measures we can allow restaurants to expand beyond their interior spaces and get our community back to work sooner, all while keeping the patrons and employees socially distant and safe,” the supervisor said in a statement.
The application is available online here and may be submitted via email or U.S. mail to government liaison officer Denis Noncarrow.
According to the town’s application, restaurants must place a physical barrier to protect guests from vehicular traffic that cannot exceed four feet in height and may only be used between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. The temporary permits would expire Nov. 1 and do not allow for outdoor bars.
Discussions are also ongoing in Greenport Village on permitting creative reuse of outdoor spaces as recovery from COVID-19 shutdown begins.
A proposal introduced by the Greenport Village Business Improvement District last month would eliminate parking spaces in some downtown areas to allow for more room to socially distance on sidewalks and also permit outdoor dining and retail areas.
“Some places already have outdoor seating and that’s part of their[certificate of occupancy,” Village mayor George Hubbard said in an interview Thursday morning. “So there will be no change for those that have it.”
Restaurants seeking to add outdoor tables, he said, must gain approval through the village building department, which is still operating amid the pandemic, as well as county and liquor authority approvals.
A trial-run of the BID’s proposal came to life in Greenport over the weekend and Mr. Hubbard said a committee will continue working out the details of the plan. “We may try it again in a week or two,” he said, but noted there are no plans in place to close down parking this weekend.
The mayor is awaiting guidelines from the state Department of Transportation that may clarify how municipalities may move forward with these ideas. “A lot of villages and towns are planning to do something similar,” Mr. Hubbard said.