HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Restaurants can begin offering service in outdoor dining areas Wednesday as part of the first phase of Connecticut’s statewide reopening, including in hard-hit Fairfield County on the New York state line.
Gov. Ned Lamont and some eatery owners have said they will be wary of customers visiting from nearby sections of New York, where restaurants among other businesses remain closed.
While infection rates have been declining, the southwestern part of the state was affected by an outbreak in the greater New York City area worse than any other in the country. Fairfield County has had 122 deaths associated with COVID-19 per every 100,000 residents, compared with 119 fatalities per 100,000 in Manhattan, according to state figures.
Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo said most people are looking forward to getting back at least a little sense of normalcy.
“There are varying degrees of concern about health,” he said. “It’s not just, ‘Let’s reopen and flip the switch.’ But business owners are itching to open up and I think people are itching to get out and grab something to eat outside and maybe buy something from a vendor.”
Matt Storch, the owner of two Fairfield County restaurants, said after going over the logistics and finances, he came to the conclusion that just doesn’t make sense to open the Match Restaurant in South Norwalk and Match Burger Lobster in Westport — at least not yet.
“I’m questioning whether or not I take the expense to purchase all the tables and umbrellas and the signage needed,” he said. “It’s a hefty out-of-pocket expense and I’m trying to conserve as much capital as I can.”
He said he’s also not convinced that being open during a holiday weekend would be safe for his staff, with people potentially coming in large numbers including from neighboring New York.
At a news conference last week, Lamont, a Democrat, said there was a desire to avoid traffic across state lines for restaurants and bars.
“I’m going to watch that like a hawk,” he said.
Under the state guidelines, restaurateurs who decide to open must print out disposable menus or have the options posted on boards, silverware must be packaged or rolled up, and patrons must abide social distancing.
Malls and stores also can welcome customers, but seating areas, food courts and fitting rooms must remain closed and there must be separate entrances and exits, barriers at checkout and and signs or tape to keep shoppers 6-feet apart. More offices can also open, but Lamont is urging people to continue to work from home, if possible.