County Restaurants Expecting To Reopen

County Restaurants

Expecting To Reopen

Governor May Announce News Friday

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Mel’s proprietor Brian Wrubleski has been on the cutting edge in working through the challenges in the emergency. With him is daughter (and chef) Alex Guenther. ( photo)

If you see darkened windows at Mel’s at 22 on Thursday, June 11, don’t worry – they’re just getting ready to welcome everyone back in.

“We’re closing on Thursday to get ready to reopen on Friday,” said owner Brian Wrubleski. “We’ll be able to do some more intricate plates, start fooling around for the summer!”

With COVID-19 metrics continuing to improve, Otsego County is anticipating Governor Cuomo’s announcement that restaurants can reopen for dine-in service, possibly as early as Friday afternoon.

“The state will review the last two weeks of metrics and give us a date to reopen,” said Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig said Tuesday, June 9. “It could be Friday, or it could be later in the week.”

“Our members expect to be open Friday,” said Melissa Fleischut, state Restaurant Association president & CEO. “They’re excited that they’ve gotten the guidance
in advance.”

Guidance for restaurants to reopen was posted on the NY Forward website on Tuesday morning, including requirements that staff wear masks and recommending they be assigned to one zone for their entire shift to minimize overlap.

“At the table, diners don’t have to wear a mask, but when they get up, they have to put one on,” said Rebecca Carrington, who owns Autumn Café with her husband Wayne.
Phase Three would allow restaurants to serve diners inside at 50-percent capacity, not including staff.

“We could have 66 people in here,” said Randy Olmstead, Morey’s Family Restaurant. “With our spacing, that’s only 15 tables.”

Wrubleski said that Mel’s could hold as many as 40, but with their expanded outdoor dining, add another 22 seats to that.

“We have to be conscientious of turning tables, of not letting people linger,” said Fleischut. “Restaurants will need to look at how they can utilize outdoor dining and take-out components to build back to 100 percent.”

There are other rules in effect as well. Silverware will not be on the tables when diners arrive, and only plastic utensils will be used. “We can’t have salt and pepper shakers
or ketchup bottles on the tables,” said Olmstead. “It all has to be individual packets.”

And gone too, he said, are salad bars and buffet-style eating.

The Otesaga’s Jim Miles says restaurants at the hotel will all be open on Monday the 15th. The Hawkeye Grill’s patio opened last weekend.

At Morey’s, Olmstead said they had been hoping to be ready to open Friday, but a project got in the way. “We’re installing new carpet on Saturday!” he said. “But if we get the go-ahead, we’ll be gung-ho and open Monday morning!”

But not all restaurants are ready to reopen as soon as the word comes down. “We’ve been telling our customers two weeks,” said Carrington. “We’re still getting the back deck ready, and we don’t know how long that will take.”

And no plans are in place to open the Carringtons’ original restaurant, the B-Side Ballroom. “We brought a lot of the sandwiches and cocktails over to the Autumn, but the B-Side is too intimate, and it would be hard to reopen without that intimacy.”

But for those who might not be ready to dine indoors, Herzig said that the Survive, Then Thrive group dedicated to dining is putting the finishing touches on a plan to close Main Street for outdoor dining.

“The city cannot put out tables for the public, for instance, in Muller Plaza, because that would be considered a gathering and those are not yet allowed,” he said. “But restaurants can put tables out in front of their businesses.”

Because the sidewalks on Main Street are so narrow, the group has proposed closing the street for special events to allow restaurants to put tables outside.

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