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Rochester-area restaurants prepare to reopen outdoor seating

Charles Molineaux
Updated: June 03, 2020 11:18 PM
Created: June 03, 2020 11:03 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester area restaurants hustled to be ready to reopen after a new announcement that on-site outdoor dining would be permitted as New York emerges from its coronavirus lockdowns.

"The best news we've heard in a long time,” Mark Petzig, owner of Shamrock Jack’s in Irondequoit, said. 

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Petzig pointed to tables on his patio and porch, now spaced more than six feet apart and declared he would be ready to reopen as soon as on-site outdoor dining became legal on Thursday.

"I had to call my food vendors and a few other people and pull some last-minute favors. We are going to be ready for it,” Petzig promised. 

On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that restaurants would be able to have eat-in service, as long as its outdoors, in seven of the state's regions now in Phase II of reopening, including in the Finger Lakes.  

“The restaurants are probably the best equipped to handle something like the virus,” Robert Buono, General Manager of the Bay Side Pub in Webster said. “We have multiple handwashing stations already in place. We already have a cleaning procedure in place, We are already very equipped with what we need to do. We just need the permission to do it.”

At The Original Charbroil House & Catering in Greece, some drive-through customers commandeered tables already in place under a tent set especially set up in the parking lot.

Charbroil had been set up like this and waiting for on-site outdoor dining to become legal since last week, even though it doesn't normally have any outdoor tables.

That lack of outdoor space for some restaurants was an issue that Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy acknowledged may be a challenge for some of them.

"Outdoor may be problematic,” he said. “Some restaurants may have very little space outside. I would hope the towns, villages City Hall, which is working on this as well, will be helpful."

The outdoor reopening news was welcome for regulars at the Bay Side Pub so faithful they had assembled their own outdoor seating area made up of lawn furniture in the parking lot.

“That's incredible. And it's about time,” Judy Stevenson of Webster said. "It's incredible to see their faces. I don't care if I have to sit six feet away. But it's nice to talk."

The authorization for on-sit outdoor dining came with several pages of regulations for just how restaurants were to handle their reopenings. Duffy said they’d be familiar to restaurateurs already dealing with masks, disinfecting and social distancing.

Buono said he doubted the Bay Side would rush to reopen on the first day, Thursday, primarily because the restaurant’s deck remained in “winter” mode with tables stacked on top of each other, deliberately inhospitable to discourage take-out customers from illegally dining on the deck. But he predicted a fast turnaround and return to operation.

“We are resilient,” Buono said. “That’s what we are. If you’re in this business, that’s what you have to be.”


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