- Expanded sidewalk seating outside Le Petit Bistro in Rhinebeck.
The Capital Region, which includes Columbia and Greene counties, entered Phase 3 of Governor Cuomo’s four-phase New York Forward plan for reopening the state’s businesses on June 17. Phase 3 allows restaurants to reopen fully for indoor and outdoor service, keeping face masks and social-distancing policies for staff and patrons and other safety protocols in place.
But, the Mid-Hudson Valley, which includes Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Putnam, Westchester, and Rockland counties, just entered Phase 2 on June 9. Although the COVID-19 curve has been dramatically flattened, the number of active cases of the virus has not yet dropped to the level that would put the region in Phase 3. But with the temperate June weather now here, a number of Hudson Valley dining-destination towns are thinking creatively and moving toward the implementation of expanded outdoor dining in public spaces to help kickstart their economies during reopening.
- Socially distanced tables on the sidewalk in Rhinebeck.
“The Village of Rhinebeck is open for business,” says its enthusiastic mayor, Gary Bassett. “The process of making that happen has been a very good collaboration between the town and the businesses themselves.”
Foster’s Coach House, the Tavern at Beekman Arms, and Terrapin are among the eateries that have expanded their outdoor dining capacities (some using their existing parking lots) and erected dining tents, and East Market Street has been narrowed for two-way traffic to allow other restaurants to set up additional well-spaced, open-air seating for diners. To assist Rhinebeck shopkeepers, the village is also permitting merchants to set up display and sales areas along the lengths of their storefronts. “It’s very European-feeling,” muses the mayor about the interim layout, which the town will finish putting in place on June 20.
Still in Phase 2, Beacon has established an outdoor business area permit program to allow restaurants, retail shops, personal services, and other businesses to temporarily use adjacent private and public outside spaces, such as sidewalk sections (parklets), during the COVID-19 emergency.
Currently, the Beacon Building Department is taking in applications with plans from restaurants proposing to create dining "parklets" outside their storefronts and inspectors are reviewing these applications and approving the proposed sites in person on a case-by-case basis. “We’re just starting to get ready to open up, really,” says Mayor Lee Kyriacou. “The main focus is to help our businesses to stay safe for their workers and customers when the reopen.”
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble recently announced the implementation of the city’s new dining and retail outdoor expansion program, which aims to use public areas to create more physical space for outdoor dining and open-air shopping and possibly close off select streets to vehicular traffic temporarily.
The application process is now open to restaurants and other businesses and several applications have already been approved. “When we have a sense of how many restaurants and shops are going to participate, and how much space they will need, we will inform the public of potential parking restrictions, possible road closures along with days and times,” said Mayor Noble in a press release. “I also think it will be a fun experience and will create more ways to reengage with family, friends, and city this summer.” Interested businesses should contact the Mayor’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (845) 334-3902.
- Arrowood Outpost in New Paltz
New Paltz is another dining destination that has implemented accelerated approval for restaurants suddenly looking for outdoor eating spaces due to the COVID situation, and the town appears to have been successful in helping eateries with getting their al fresco areas in place. “We’ve tried to be as accommodating as we can,” Mayor Tim Rogers says. “We created a process for our building department to quickly review applications, and we’ve waived any application fees that would have been in place for rezoning previously.”
The town converted a municipal parking lot on Main Street into a dining area by moving some local park benches there, and is currently mulling over a plan to redesign parts of its road system to make it more friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians, a move that could dovetail nicely with the outdoor seating additions at New Paltz restaurants, should those additions remain in place. “For instance, P&G’s [a popular restaurant and bar at the corner of Main Street and Plattekill Avenue], who set up sidewalk dining,” says Rogers. “I don’t think they’ve ever had sidewalk dining there before. But maybe after this, people will like it enough that they’ll decide to make it permanent.”
As part of the Capital Region, Columbia County is moving through reopening slightly faster than the Mid-Hudson Valley. Hudson restaurants were already offering curbside dining before the region entered Phase 3 last week (hailing the return of indoor dining), and the city has ramped up its timeline for reopening.
In a move similar to Rhinebeck, Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson and a committee of community and business leaders have developed a proposal plan titled “Hudson—Shared Summer Streets.” The plan will allow restaurants, businesses, and other organizations to utilize parking spaces along Warren Street, the city’s main commercial artery, as dining "parklets" and outdoor merchandising spaces for shops for the duration of the program (two-way traffic will be maintained). Businesses can apply for a parking spot; entities located off of Warren Street are encouraged to participate as well. Under the scheme, select streets elsewhere in Hudson will be open to local traffic only from Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10am to 10pm, and select locations and properties abutting Warren Street will be open for picnicking and other public activities. An illustrated explanation of the proposal is on view at the City of Hudson’s website. This weekend, June 19-21, will be the first test of the Shared Summer Streets program.
Catskill, which was finally finding its feet as a cultural destination when the pandemic set in, has been quick to get things in line for outdoor dining and has made plain its plans to stay in the game through mid-fall. “Just to help our restaurants here, we’ve enacted temporary guidelines for COVID through October 31,” says the Catskill Town Supervisor Dale Finch. “To expedite things, we’ve gone ahead and allowed [new] outdoor dining for restaurants without their owners having to go through the planning board. It’s a way of giving them an extra tool to maximize their space, speeding things up by exempting them from having to go through the regular process.” In addition to those in the county seat, restaurants in Cairo, Windham, Hunter, Coxsackie, Athens, Round Top, Tannersville, East Durham, Leeds, Greenville, Purling, and other Greene County towns have stepped up their curbside pickup and delivery options as they open their outdoor sites.