October 23, 2021

Outside dining returns

Patrons happy to dine again at local eateries as coronavirus restrictions begin to ease

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Dan Triant orders drinks Thursday afternoon from server Maddie VanPatten at Brix Pubaria in Cortland. He and a friend were among the first people in the greater Cortland area to take advantage of eased pandemic-related restrictions, allowing outdoor dining at restaurants.

Dan Triant looked over the tables at Brix Pubaria with his friend, chose one, and sat down. His friend took a call on his cell.

Server Maddie VanPatten came by with a couple of menus and Triant ordered, for himself, anyhow.

“I love this place,” Triant said; he’s a regular. And he hadn’t been able to sit down outside on a warm sunny day since last year.

So when he heard the state had allowed restaurants to resume outdoor seating, he was the first in line to take one at the Main Street, Cortland, restaurant.

Inside, owner Robby Petrella had partitioned off a path to the bathrooms with tables unused from the indoor dining room, which itself is undergoing some construction.

And he moved several of his eight outdoor tables to increase spacing between them, to assure social distancing.

“We’re meeting the lifting of some of the restrictions with excitement, enthusiasm and caution,” he said. “We’re excited to be getting toward a new normal, whatever that may be. We’re being cautious because the coronavirus is a very real threat. We’re being cautious because we want to make sure we’re in line with the state mandates and protocols.”

However, Petrella said Cuomo and the state could be better at giving information to businesses.

“I’m definitely a little turned off by the way Albany has rolled out these stages,” he said. “They’re not being transparent enough, they’re not giving us enough information, they’re not giving us enough time. We’re grateful, we’re happy for the opportunity, we would just like to see Albany get a little more organized, a little more informative prior to the easing of the restrictions.”

Next door, tables at Deli Downtown came equipped with a bottle of hand sanitizer and a green sign denoting they’d been sanitized. A bottle of disinfecting wipes rested on a stool nearby.

Five minutes after Triant sat down, his friend returned and their drinks were on the way. A man sat at the next table, reading a book.

This, Triant said through a mask, was why he was here. “I’ve been waiting.”

Nick Caruso, manager of Hobo’s on Route 281 in Homer, said his restaurant opened for outside dining via reservations Thursday. The first day went well and the kitchen was busy.

“It’s that good ole fashion restaurant feeling,” he said. “It felt like before all this happened.”

Managing Editor Todd R. McAdam contributed to this report.