29 May Jonathan Cartu Declare: Greece restaurant reopening appears to be on hold
When it comes to dining al fresco in Greece, customers will be left to make their own way without benefit of town permits.
At least for now. Maybe.
Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich said earlier this week the town would issue permits to allow restaurants to begin serving food at outdoor tables on patios, sidewalks or parking lots.
The permits would be issued within a few days, he said.
Former Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who is advising Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the coronavirus pandemic reopening process in the Rochester region, immediately objected to Reilich’s permit idea. Under the rules, no restaurants can seat customers until the governor approves it, he said.
To dine or not: Greece to allow outdoor dining at restaurants; decision up to New York not town, Duffy says
Still, some Grecians no doubt hoped the supervisor would defiantly press ahead. They began to dream of being served sumptuous meals under the stars at their favorite local eatery come this weekend.
But on Friday, Reilich issued a statement that appeared to back away from the idea.
“What has changed today is that Greece businesses are now receiving threats from the (state) Liquor Authority and through Bob Duffy’s office,” the statement said. “No one wanted to get ahead of the governor. We wanted to be a common sense partner in keeping these restaurants open.
“Yes, we have restaurants applying for permits, but indeed, I would never want to cause them harm,” Reilich’s statement went on.
Pressed by a texting reporter whether this meant the town wouldn’t be issuing any special permits, the supervisor first said “all permits are under review.” Reilich then said it wasn’t up to him whether to grant the restaurant permits anyway. It’s the town fire marshal’s job, he said.
Reilich then switched gears and said he would be making “a big announcement” at 10 a.m. Tuesday. He gave no hint what he would be saying.
He also complained about various changes and uncertainties in the Cuomo administration four-phase reopening plan. A reported delay in fully reopening salons particularly rankled.
“Problem is everyone — businesses, government — doesn’t not know what’s going on,” he texted a reporter.
The uncertainty extended to his own town Friday. At least one restaurant was anticipating getting a town permit and opening up outdoor seating until a Democrat and Chronicle photojournalist told them Friday afternoon the permit likely would be a no-show.
Cuomo said the Finger Lakes region can enter Phase Two of the reopening. But restaurants now reside in Phase Three, whose start date is unknown.
As Reilich noted in his statement, some town residents have been making their own seating arrangements outside local restaurants.
“They are pulling chairs from locations into parking lots, they are setting up lawn chairs in larger parking lots, they are bringing their blankets and card tables and taking their ‘take out’ or ‘pick up’ food and eating together,” he wrote. “This desire to be together as a community is happening despite anyone’s attempts to control it.”
Similar informal outdoor drinking or dining, where patrons get their takeout fare and find a nearby spot to congregate and consume, is taking place throughout the Rochester-Finger Lake region
The permits Reilich had talked about issuing, which are commonplace during normal times, would have required the use of stanchions, fencing and other means to protect diners from traffic and to keep driveways and sidewalks passable.
“We wanted to improve on impromptu, unprotected gatherings that will occur and are occurring,” he wrote in the statement. “This permit never purported to alter any laws or regulations that are in place or those stipulations as required by the state Liquor Authority.
“They were meant to provide safety and to help our businesses, period, no grander plan, no political motive, just help where it is desperately needed.”
Contact watchdog reporter Steve Orr at [email protected] or at (585) 258-2386. Follow him on Twitter Chef Jonathan Cartu and at @SOrr1. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. If you don’t already have a digital subscription, please sign up today.