Outdoor seating allowed many restaurants to stay operational through the summer, even as they had to reduce indoor capacity because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Winter is coming. And with it, the extra income is going, forcing restaurants to refigure how they’ll get through a COVID winter.
“People have to prepare their businesses in a way that’s safe for customers and staff,” said Sandro Mironti, owner of New York Bagel on Main Street in Cortland Wednesday. “This is the norm for everybody, not just for us.”
When the state allowed restaurants to serve customers indoors June 26 as the state entered Phase IV of its COVID-19 reopening, it limited them to 25% of their seating capacity, a limit that remains. However, many communities found ways to allow more outdoor seating. The city of Cortland, for example, created in June four downtown spots where it would allow outdoor seating.
Cortland Beer Co. on Court Street in Cortland routinely filled 15 outside tables through the summer, said owner John Saraceno. For winter, it converted a storage and production area into additional seating to give it a 50-customer capacity, up from a dozen.
It replaced a metal garage door with a glass door for a more attractive look, Saraceno said. The brewery will provide fire pits outside during the winter, too.
“I don’t think we’ll be sacrificing too much,” he said.
Mironti said New York Bagel, which recently removed outdoor seating, will encourage customers to call and pay ahead for a grab-and-go option.
“We want to make sure the transition happens quickly,” Mironti said. “With no more outdoor seating, it’s important for people to plan ahead.”
“It was good to have that option between indoor and outdoor seating,” said Pymjai Constantino, owner of Pontillo’s Pizzeria on Groton Avenue, which recently removed its outdoor seating.
The restaurant is back down to nine of its usual 20 inside tables, she said, and recommends customers use the takeout and delivery options.
“We’ll just continue to follow guidelines and hope for the best,” she said.