Restaurants in the seven New York State regions, including the Finger Lakes, that have already entered Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan can begin offering outdoor dining on Thursday, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Outdoor tables must be spaced six feet apart and all staff must wear face coverings. Customers must also wear face coverings when not seated, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
Restaurants and dining establishments should check with their local ordinances to see what is permissible in their communities.
“I think it’s a great thing to get anything we can do to get restaurants open and back to somewhat normal is good,” said Tom Turnbull, president of Genesee County Chamber of Commerce. “Fortunately, we’re coming right into the perfect weather for this type of thing. We hope it helps not only restaurants, but for their customers as well.”
Beth Kemp, director of the Downtown Batavia Improvement District, said it was an amazing and important step in the right direction for their restaurants to open up their patios.
Darlene Hartway, executive director for the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce, said restaurants have been struggling, and she’s glad Cuomo didn’t wait until Phase Three to have outdoor dining.
“I think small businesses need all the support and help they can get,” she said. “I’m glad he’s being progressive about quickening the process, not too tied up in each phase. I think it’s been frustrating for business owners, so I’m very glad for that.”
Hartway’s family also owns Sourced Market and Eatery in Medina, and she said she’s ecstatic they can do outside eating so customers can have more of a dining experience. Hartway said people have been eating in their cars.
“I saw people at Brockport tailgating, going to restaurants and just tailgating,” she said. “I’m sure restaurants will take all the precautions they need to.”
Restaurants in Orleans County, Hartway said, had already seen the writing on the wall to start adding outdoor seating as an option. One restaurant in Medina already took the opportunity to do remodeling and added limited seating.
Livingston County Administrator Ian Coyle said last week there has been inquiries and interest from restaurants about outdoor dining, but noted that the decision to allow outdoor dining would be up to local codes.
In Lima, the village board recently formed a committee to help find creative ways for its restaurants to more fully serve customers, such as adding dining space to parking lots.
“We have the luxury of a lot of space here in the country. We want to see our restaurants take advantage of it,” said Mayor John Correll.
If restaurants can adapt now – and the county has a loan program that could help – the businesses could deploy the arrangement long term to help pick up business, Correll said.
“We want to see business be creative and move the bar ahead,” said Correll. “The health and wellbeing of our residents is important to us, and we must also protect and enhance our business environment.”
Regions across the state have been trying to convince the governor’s office to allow outdoor dining. Restaurants have been shut down since March because of the coronavirus.
The regions eligible to offer outdoor dining include the Finger Lakes, which includes the four GLOW region counties; Western New York, the Southern Tier, the Capital Region, Central New York, the Mohawk Valley, and the North Country.
Guidance from New York State on outdoor dining is available online at https://forward.ny.gov/phase-two-industries. Look under “Outdoor and Take-Out/Delivery Food Services.”