Village revamps outdoor dining for 2021 season

Village revamps outdoor dining for 2021 season

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Richared Harris and Kathianne Snaden join Joey Zangrillo in his new outdoor dining spot located behind his restaurant, Joey Z’s. Photo by Julianne Mosher

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Long Island in March of last year, restaurants had to shut their doors and come up with creative ways to survive.

At first, they utilized contactless, curbside pickup, and then as the summer approached, the warm weather opened up impromptu outdoor dining.

“It was a scary time,” Village of Port Jefferson trustee Kathianne Snaden said. “But the attitude with outdoor dining was whatever they need, we will make it work within reason and safety.”

Restaurants had to make use of whatever outdoor space they had — Joey Z’s, for example, be-ing just two tables on the busy sidewalk in front of its location. Others used their back parking lots, taking up space from visitors and their cars.

Snaden said they were able to relax their already-in-place outdoor dining codes to help the businesses stay open. 

“Even though it was hurriedly done, we still did everything to the standards with the fire marshal and the attorney that visited every site,” Snaden added. “We were very careful with that stuff. Our goal was for the businesses to continue doing business and stay open.”

Now that this has become the new normal, the village knew they had to prepare early for the busy season, using what they learned last year to make outdoor dining even better.

Deputy village attorney Richard Harris and Snaden began researching different accommodations the village could make. 

“We came up with a waiver form,” Harris said, “And whenever people came in for an application, for the most part we said ‘yes.’”

Using the good and the bad from what they learned early on in the pandemic, Harris and Snaden began measuring different spots that could accommodate outdoor tables, again joined by the fire marshal to make sure everything was safe, and ADA compliant. 

“We were able to take more time in identifying locations,” Snaden said, adding that this year the village again waived the $100 table fee restaurants typically need to pay for outdoor dining. 

And this year, the village is continuing to assist the restaurants which could use the extra space.

Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that indoor dining could seat at 75% capacity, but some restaurants Down Port are small spaces that still cannot make a profit without a full house. 

So, the outdoor dining helps.

Joey Z’s, located at 217 Main St., is now utilizing a small park behind his restaurant, at the bottom of the staircase by Toast Coffeehouse.

Joey Zangrillo, owner of the Greek and Italian spot, said he is grateful for the tables located within the park because he knows it’ll help his business this summer. 

“This whole place, the way it looks right now, looks perfect to me,” he said. 

And the tables will not interfere with the rest of the park, Snaden said, because benches are still available for people to take a break. 

“Everybody that requested a certain area or type of outdoor dining, they were not denied,” she added. “We worked within our parameters and what the code allows, but nobody was denied what they asked for.”

While many restaurants are beginning to utilize the outdoor dining now that spring is here, Harris said applications are still rolling in, and have been since early March. 

“If you let us know what you want, we’ll take a look at the permit and make it work for you,” he said. “We want the businesses to survive — that’s our job.”