CATSKILL — Local restaurants and other businesses reopened with modifications, including patio dining.
Seven regions, including the Capital District, are in phase 2, with others expected to follow by Wednesday. Phase 2 allows offices, salons, car dealerships and other businesses to open their doors, with mandated changes such as social distancing and face coverings.
Spring Kelsey, owner of Salon 255 in Coxsackie, said her business reopened with the required modifications.
“There are a lot of restrictions and guidelines we are required to do, but despite all of that, we had a great week and everybody has been very supportive,” Kelsey said. “It’s been much better than I expected.”
Hair salons and barbershops are required to operate at 50% capacity, and customers must wait outside or in their cars for their appointment, Kelsey said.
“They have to log in and we can’t use our waiting room,” she said. “Obviously, everyone wanted to get in yesterday, but it has worked out,” she said. “The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since we reopened. Even though we may not be essential, we are doing very important work.”
The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce has been working with the county’s tourism department and the Columbia Economic Development Corporation to promote the reopening of businesses of all kinds in the county, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jeffrey Hunt said.
“There are more businesses reopening and efforts to encourage people to shop local,” Hunt said. “We have started a Shop Local campaign and purchased over 100 yard signs to encourage people to shop locally.”
The restrictions have led to some confusion for many businesses, Hunt said. But economic activity appears to be picking up.
“I rode down Warren Street on Saturday and Sunday and I saw a lot of people visiting businesses, so I think people are beginning to come back to work and shop a little more,” Hunt said.
Although restaurants were not scheduled to open for on-premises service until phase 3 and were limited to delivery and takeout, beginning last week these businesses were permitted to offer patio dining.
Outdoor tables must be spaced six feet apart, all staff must wear face coverings and customers must also wear face coverings when not seated.
Barnwood Restaurant owner Carol Blaes said the six outdoor tables at the Catskill restaurant were full all weekend. “We brought in six vinyl ones with umbrellas,” Blaes said. These tables are easier to clean than the wooden type.
Barnwood is not offering table service outside, but patrons who purchase takeout can enjoy their meals outside, Blaes said.
The restaurant is still offering its full menu and operating from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the exception of Sundays, which has been reduced to 2-8 p.m., Blaes said.
“We don’t have the church crowd anymore on Sundays,” she said.
The adjustment for Barnwood has not been as difficult as it has been for other businesses, Blaes said.
“We’ve always done takeout and delivery anyway,” she said. “For us it’s just normal.”
Casa Latina, 78 Green St. in Hudson, opened its doors Saturday for patio dining for the first time since the shutdown.
“We are doing pretty good. We have four tables with four chairs at each table, and the tables are separated by six feet each,” said Casa Latina manager Javier Romero. “On Saturday all four tables were filled and people were waiting.”
All employees are wearing mandated face masks, Romero said.
During the statewide shutdown, Casa Latina remained open with pick-up service available.
Ca’Mea Restaurant, on Warren Street in Hudson, is waiting to offer full service until the anticipated start of phase 3 of the reopening when both indoor and outdoor dining will be possible, manager Janet Ashley said, though customers can order a drink at an outdoor table while they wait for their take-out meal. The restaurant has also been working on relocating from 333 Warren St. to 214 Warren St. The relocation is unrelated to the coronavirus shutdown.
Ca’Mea will continue with take-out service until June 16, when phase 3 — which would allow socially distanced indoor and outdoor dining — is expected to begin in the Capital Region, Ashley said.
“We are not open for full service at this point because we just found out. We are pulling our staff in tomorrow for a full staff meeting and then to make a plan on reopening and giving them all the restrictions and the things we have to do to keep everybody safe,” Ashley said Monday. “We have been doing take-out curbside only, but we do have about six tables that fit outside on the patio, so people have been taking out food and they will sit at one of our tables, of course with social distancing, making sure there is at least eight feet between chair back to chair back. If someone wants to have a drink, we don’t have full service, but we can accommodate them with a glass of wine or a cocktail.”
Opening up outdoor dining is critical to restaurants, Friedman said.
“It’s very important and helpful to our restaurants,” he said. “It gives them greater capacity to serve, since they can’t do any indoor seating right now. Hopefully it will increase sales. It’s a bit of a game changer; it gives restaurants a two-week head start on phase 3.”
Friedman urges patrons to follow precautions when dining.
“We strongly encourage everyone to follow each restaurant’s safety guidelines: wearing masks while not seated, maintaining social distancing with anyone not in your party,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is have a spike in cases and have our businesses be forced to shut down again.”
Catskill’s outdoor guidelines require any new or additional outdoor seating to comply with state building code, fire code and department of health regulations, cannot result in a total restaurant capacity greater than the restaurant’s currently approved occupancy limit, cannot block exits from any building or access routes to and from the building, cannot block fire lanes or hydrants and have at least one fire extinguisher for outdoor operations.
All sidewalks must maintain a minimum width of three feet; a minimum distance of six feet must be maintained between outdoor tables; groups with more than 10 people will not be permitted and new seating that requires construction or electrical work will still require a building permit.
If outdoor dining occurs after daylight hours, adequate lighting must be provided, and if the outdoor dining space is near parking spaces, a visual barrier must be placed to alert drivers.
The guidelines are in effect through Oct. 31.
In the village, a proposal to close Main Street to increase outdoor dining and retail space for the duration of the summer, has been dropped.
“Street closing is off the table,” Village President Vincent Seeley said. “We are offering businesses to expand seating out into the sidewalk.”
Other businesses opened their doors during phase 2.
Car dealerships were able to do business online prior to phase 2, but now customers can come inside as well.
“Everyone is required to wear a mask when they walk in the dealership and if you don’t have one we provide masks at the front door,” Sawyer Chevrolet manager Stephanie Siracusano said. “We are leaving it up to the customer if they feel comfortable entering. We can do everything outside that we can do inside.”
The flow of customers to the dealership has been steady both when doing business online and now at the dealership, Siracusano said.
Test drives have been allowed both during the shutdown — when car dealerships were considered essential businesses — and during the reopening.
“We wipe down the vehicle both before and after a customer takes a test drive,” Siracusano said.