Many restaurants in Brooklyn did not open for indoor dining Wednesday, even though it was the first day they were allowed to do so.
The BK Reader visited eight Brooklyn restaurants on the first day of indoor dining, which comes amidst a surge in coronavirus cases in the borough, to find none of them were yet offering indoor seating.
Some eateries were gearing up to open indoor in the coming days or weeks, while others had no immediate plans to restart indoor seating — especially as outdoor dining remained possible and they were only allowed to fill their restaurants to a quarter capacity.
At Bed-Stuy eatery Saraghina, manager Ellen Dillard said the restaurant was set to start indoor dining Thursday. The team took the extra day to make sure all the proper precautions were being following .
“I think a lot of restaurants were probably caught off guard,” she said. “During this time we’ve used a lot of our space as storage, so it’s like cleaning that out and having the right system to really feel comfortable and safe opening.”
The City’s guidelines for reopening indoor dining require seating does not exceed 25% of the restaurant’s capacity. For Saraghina, this meant up to 26 people could be seated in the restaurant at any given time. For other restaurants, it would be much less.
At Brooklyn Beso, the Latin American eatery on Lewis Ave, 9-10 people could be seated inside at quarter capacity. Still, acting manager Kimane Phillips said the restaurant was getting prepared with PPE and temperature check devices.
Restaurants must also check the temperature of every customer at the front door, collect contact information from at least one customer in each party and place tables at least six feet apart. Certain air filtration, hygiene, cleaning and communication mandates must be followed.
Owner of Bed-Stuy restaurant Mama Fox Samantha DiStefano said the restaurant was going to ease into indoor dining over the next few days, starting by seating just one or two tables near the open doors of the restaurant.
“This way it gives staff and patrons a little time to get more comfortable.” She pointed out restaurants still had outdoor seating, so there was less pressure to move inside.
DiStefano had invested in new air purifiers and HVAC filters and would soon need to invest in outdoor heating. The biggest challenge for restaurants was figuring out how to make money when the weather turned, she said.
“At 25% capacity, even at 50%, without outdoor seating, that’s not going to work. The numbers don’t make sense,” she said.
Other restaurants BK Reader spoke to said it didn’t make financial sense for them to open at 25% capacity — instead they would wait for the City to allow 50% capacity.
At Bed-Stuy’s Peaches, the business was biding its time for safety, manager Farley Becerra said. The restaurant was watching to see if there was another wave of COVID-19 in the city, and would need time to develop its safety protocols.
The move to reopen restaurants has coincided with the reopening of public schools, both of which have been planned for weeks, but arrive amidst an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the city. If New York City hits 2% in positive infection rates, the City said it will immediately reassess the situation. Wednesday’s daily positive infection rate was 0.94%.
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