ALBANY, N.Y. — One day after Western New York was able to enter Phase 2 of reopening, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced outdoor dining at restaurants will be allowed starting this week.
The governor announced that restaurants in the seven regions of New York State that have already entered Phase 2 — Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier and Western New York — can reopen for outdoor dining starting Thursday.
The announcement came as a surprise to some business owners, as restaurants were not expected to seat customers until Phase 3.
"It was a pleasant surprise today" said Jerry Augugliaro, the manager of The Delaware Pub and Grill. "We still thought we were weeks away from doing anything in or around the building."
2 On Your Side asked Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul about the change.
"Restaurants were considered all together indoor and outdoor and that would’ve been Phase 3, which is two more weeks away," Hochul said. "So this is an indicator that Western New Yorkers and in fact Upstaters and other entities and regions that are in Phase Two have done a great job in reducing the spread of infection."
New York State has issued several specific measures that must be followed. Outdoor tables must be spaced six feet apart and all staff must wear face coverings. Customers must also wear face coverings when they are not seated.
Santora's Pub and Grill in Amherst will be opening its patio on Thursday. After months of looking at empty tables, owner Paul Santora says he is looking forward to welcoming the community back.
"It’s going to be a very emotional day, a sleepless night" Santora said. "Our guests are amazing and we’re looking forward to seeing each and every one of their friendly faces again."
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul released the following statement following the governor's announcement:
"Thanks to the efforts of New Yorkers, we are beating this virus and reopening the economy in a safe and responsible way.
I've been listening to restaurant owners and brought their ideas to state health officials, which is why I'm particularly pleased that the Governor has permitted restaurants to host outdoor dining as part of Phase 2. Upstate New Yorkers can now help their local restaurants get back on their feet as they begin to reopen. I look forward to dining outside soon.
At the same time, remember that this virus is still in our communities. We can't afford to lose our momentum, which is why it's important to continue wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer and practice social distancing."
New York State released interim guidelines for outdoor, takeout and delivery food services during the pandemic. The full document can be read below: