With Phase Two reopening coming to fruition Wednesday, June 10, Port Jefferson village has looked for several ways for business owners to get their wares and services outside.
Village officials have already talked about setting up areas in parking lots to allow for more outdoor dining space. At its June 1 meeting, the village voted to waive all dining table application fees for the upcoming season. Mayor Margot Garant said the village has been working with a host of restaurants to figure out how they may go about offering outdoor services.
The mayor said the village is allowing space for restaurants who normally have no space for outdoor dining in right-of-ways, walkways and parking lots.
By midday Wednesday, the town was jiving. With a steady stream of cars rolling down Main Street, and with customers sitting under canopy eating outdoors, many owners said Phase Two was turning out to be a much better scenario than Phase One.
During a tour of Suffolk downtowns, including Port Jeff, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the difference in allowing construction in the first reopening phase and allowing salons or outdoor dining has been significant.
“After going through an unprecedented event, these are the activities that give people a sense of normalcy,” Bellone said.
Restaurants are setting up in formerly public places, such as Ruvo East and Old Fields which are laying tents in the space behind their restaurants. C’est Cheese and The Pie are also doing outside dining behind the main building on Main Street. Prohibition Kitchen will be using the parking lot behind its building as well.
Manager of The Pie, Jessica Janowicz, said though they will be setting up a tent behind the business Friday, each week has seen a slow progression in sales. Wednesday showed a big difference, with a steady stream of customers doing takeout since the place opened.
Other restaurants will be using pedestrian walkways for its outdoor space, including Salsa Salsa, which will have some space in the alleyway next to the shop. Pasta Pasta and Toast Coffeehouse are laying out tables at the top of the stairway along East Main Street.
Debra Bowling, the owner of Pasta Pasta, thanked the Port Jeff chamber and the village for working so quickly with permits and signage. Her restaurant now has several tables and a flower box in front of her shop, and in over 30 years of working there, it’s the first time she has seen it do outdoor dining.
Some restaurants that have access to the outside, including Nantuckets, Gourmet Burger Bistro, The Steam Room and SaGhar, will use their current outdoor space as long as it can be open up to the sky. Danfords has its outdoor space on its dock and now has an agreement with the Town of Brookhaven for some use of the Mary Bayles Waterfront Park.
A member of the village fire marshals did not respond to requests for comment about guidelines for safety in walkable areas.
The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce released a letter dated June 5 to the Village of Port Jefferson mayor and trustees asking that retailers be allowed some latitude for “outdoor merchandising.”
“The consumer would have the ability to ‘shop’ in a less confined area and the retailer would be creating more opportunities for sales,” the letter states.
Director of operations for the chamber Barbara Ransome said she has had positive feedback from village trustees on the proposal.
Garant said they are working up guidelines that should be released sometime on Wednesday, but those were not available by press time. Retailers will have the option to have a table in front of their shops, but they will need to keep 3 feet of sidewalk clear and ensure that they do not block doorways or fire exits, as mandated by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for outdoor dining.
Code Enforcement will be inspecting businesses and restaurants to ensure they’re not blocking too much of the curb or that they’re adhering to the CDC distancing guidelines.
“We’re trying to keep it so that it’s nice looking and it’s not an overload of stuff,” Garant said.
Alana Miletti, the owner of the boutique shop Fame and Rebel, said she has survived in the grueling months of the pandemic thanks to her active social media helping facilitate online orders. Though on Wednesday she said with customers able to browse, even in a limited capacity, she had not had a moment’s rest fulfilling orders since the store opened.
“People couldn’t wait to come out,” she said.
Now with Phase Two salons and haircutters are finally able to open. Melissa Hanley, the owner of Salon Blonde, said she managed to survive during the nearly three full months she was shut down thanks to federal loans. Being back in action, however, means a world of difference.
“It’s been scary — we’ve been struggling a little bit,” Hanley said. “It’s such a relief. This is my life so, to be back in business, I’ve waited a long time for it.”