BATAVIA, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — It's official. Both Monroe County and the Finger Lakes Region can move into Phase Three of reopening on Friday, June 12.
That means personal care services (nail salons, tattoo parlors, cosmetology, massage therapy, etc.) and restaurants can bring customers inside - as long as strict health safety rules are followed.
Restaurants are limited to 50% capacity with indoor dining. While it won't allow restaurants to return to where they were prior to the pandemic, it is a step forward for these businesses that have struggled to stay in operation for nearly three months.
"It is not going to give us the effect of a full monetary resurgence but it is going to definitely help us," said Kent Ewell, owner of O'Lacy's Irish Pub in Batavia.
The challenge for O'Lacy's was making sure people can maintain a proper social distance since the pub was designed to have people in close-quarters similar to an authentic Irish pub. To reopen, Ewell had to remove some tables and bar stools.
"We'll see how the public feels and how it works out with the spacing we have done," added Ewell.
T.F. Brown's Entertainment Restaurant in Batavia also faced some challenges in re-arranging seating to comply with the new rules. "Initially, when you first look at it, we thought it was going to be really easy. We move this table here and that table there. Then when you get the ruler out, you find it is not six feet but it is five feet. So, we had to make a number of changes," said owner Rick Mancuso.
Normally the restaurant could seat over 200 people. Under the state rules, it will be now limited to half that with tables removed and some booths blocked-off. In addition, the restaurant said all condiments must be removed from tables. "Yeah, it is like piecing together a puzzle," commented Mancuso.
Both restaurants must follow strict cleaning protocols that include the installation of more hand sanitizing stations. But despite the restrictions, reopening means T.F. Brown's can bring back 40 employees and O'Lacy's Irish Pub can return 14 employees to the job over time.
"We are all social creatures. We are in this business because we enjoy seeing people," explained Rick Mancuso.
Will customers come for indoor dining after the Covid-19 pandemic?
Both owners said they have seen a strong response to their outdoor, patio dining and expect that the indoor business will have the same response. "We will have to play it by ear to see what the public is expecting and what we can manage," said Kent Ewell.
The Genesee County Economic Development Center is reminding people coming to Batavia for indoor dining to wear a mask (required) and take their own steps for personal protection.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly visited both restaurants to see their last-minute preparations for reopening indoor dining. You can see more in the attached video clip.