It’s not exactly the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but it’s a combination that makes sense and hopefully for three restaurants in the Stony Brook Village Center, a few dollars as well.
As the temperatures have dropped, restaurants in the center continue to have limited seating capacity to accommodate the indoor gathering restrictions of the pandemic.
Across from Crazy Beans, Jos. A. Bank had vacated its over-3,000-square-foot men’s clothing store. With help from The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, local officials including Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), the storefront has been reborn as a 15-table, 15-chair dining area called the Take Out Inn.
The site will allow people who are shopping or visiting the village to order food from three nearby restaurants and sit in socially distanced tables from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday to Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
“The objective is for them to be able to survive during the winter months and this is an opportunity to do that,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of SBVC.
She said the idea of using empty space to help businesses that need it “just makes sense.”
Customers inside the inn can access touchless menus by using QR codes for Crazy Beans, Robinson’s Tea Room and Pentimento Restaurant. They can order their food and eat inside the heated facility.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Romaine on Tuesday, Rocchio, who is also the president of WMHO, spoke with two women who wandered into the new space.
Rocchio said they were from Great Neck and Oyster Bay and planned to eat at the new dining space the next day, which is what the new effort made possible.
Romaine said many local businesses have had a tough time surviving during the pandemic. The town is willing to work with civic groups and chambers of commerce to use empty lots in the same way WMHO, which operates the village center, has done with the Take Out Inn.
The town has no fee for setting up such an arrangement.
“Even if it can’t be exactly replicated, it’s going to get the other business leaders thinking about other creative ways we can address the issue, so they can stay in business, make a living and feed their families,” Romaine said.
The town supervisor said any similar ideas or opportunities to keep businesses afloat amid COVID restrictions would be expedited, going to the “top of the pile.”
“We’re talking about the economic survival of people who are having a great deal of difficulty making a living and staying in business,” Romaine said. “If we lose our restaurants, we start losing our downtowns and our sense of community.”
The site, which has sanitizing stations, uses ionization generators which are attached to the ductwork for the heating and air conditions. When the climate control system is on, the air passes through a system that kills mold, bacteria and viruses.
“We did the best we could to keep it as clean and sanitized as possible,” Rocchio said.
Romaine said he would be happy to go to the Take Out Inn if he’s catching a quick lunch or a sit-down dinner.
The inn has a sign that encourages people to relax, enjoy but don’t linger, as WMHO would like to provide a place for people to rest and eat. The facility complies with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules and follows all New York State guidelines.
The town supervisor hopes other facilities consider everything they can to stay in business.
One of the challenges in trying to come up with business solutions is the renewed threat from a virus that has returned to the area, causing hundreds of new infections and threatening new restrictions.
Romaine will be going over this approach, as well as other ideas with a business recovery task force.
When he presents this approach, he said he will explain, “This is what The Ward Melville Heritage Organization did.” He added, “If you have any ideas, please, let’s discuss it,” either at the task force or by calling the town supervisor.