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Restaurant owners hail the return of patio dining

Athena Kouimanis
Curly's Restaurant

Along with the predicted summer weather, Thursday brings another example of New York opening up from the long COVID-19 quarantine. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given the go-ahead to restaurants to serve meals outdoors, under social distancing rules. 

With the decision made Wednesday, restaurants are rushing to prepare. At Curly's in Lackawanna, owner and general manager Athena Kouimanis said she is ready for those outdoor customers.  

"We are going to have four tables, with couches on each side, so kind of more loungy seating, separated six feet apart," she said. "We do have the town allowing us to make our patio larger so tables can be six feet apart, because they are usually closer than six feet and we are going to go down the whole block." 

Perhaps the earliest sign of the change will be at Caffe Aroma in Buffalo's Elmwood Village, which set 7 a.m. for the start of outdoor service, coffee and tea and pastries, after three months of only takeout. Owner Rino Villella said Albany allowing use of outdoor tables for eating helps the bottom line and starts restoring the ambiance of a restaurant.

He said Aroma and his Trattoria Roma in Williamsville are bringing in about a quarter of what they did before the lockdown. Takeout has helped, a little.

"I'm going to open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. because you have this curfew, even though that doesn't affect what they call 'essential.' Hopefully, we will see how this week is going to go, hopefully better," Villella said. "Probably I'm going to have four or five tables out there. Hopefully, we can start see some light at the other end of the tunnel."

At The Place on Lexington Avenue in Buffalo, some of the parking lot will be sacrificed for more tables because of the distance rules.  Owner Jay McCarthy said he is rushing to open, with calls coming in for reservations.

"If it's nothing more than putting out tables, we're ready to go," McCarthy said. "My concern would be the safety of our staff, as well as the safety of our clients and customers, and that ability to, as I've read, the exits, the entrances, the separation, the bathroom adjustments. There's lots of adjustments I know that we have to make, but maybe people just have to have patience as we work through it together."

Indoor meals will come in with Phase Three, potentially the week after next.

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