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As Westchester and the rest of the Mid-Hudson region enters Phase Two of economic reopening this week, two things are on everyone’s minds: haircuts and finally getting to eat out at a restaurant again.
Thankfully, three towns in northern Westchester are finding ways to safely let their residents return to dining out, while enabling more of their restaurants to offer outdoor possibilities until in-house dining becomes available again.
The city is already known for its annual summer dining program, wherein a one-way stretch of downtown North Division Street — affectionately named “Restaurant Row” — is blocked off Friday evenings and weekends to allow for all the associated eateries to fill the street with tables and chairs, serving customers while live musicians set a light, typically jazzy ambiance.
Currently, the city is discussing how to expand this program to cover more ground and more dining options — possibly even extending farther north towards the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater passed locations like The Hudson Room and Eagle Saloon.
Cynthia Rosario-Neville, owner of Whiskey River and newly elected member of the Peekskill Business Improvement District, says specifics are still forthcoming, but the BID is highly motivated to support local restaurants.
“We already have the permits — they’re yearly,” she says. “We just have to figure out how much we can do and what we’re permitted to do.”
A little farther down Route 9, a familiar face is also trying to help get some cars off the streets in favor of diners. The Croton Business Council has proposed testing a “Pedestrian Streets” Plan in the Upper Village starting with Phase Two reopenings this month, which would see two sections of Old Post Road South and Grand St closed to traffic and parking.
The plan, according to CBC Chair (and television star and Croton Tapsmith owner) Toni Senecal, would turn the relatively quiet stretches of road between the “Dummy Light” and Fratelli’s Trattoria on Old Post Road South and between Holy Name of Mary School and Berkshire Hathaway running East-West along Grand St into a pedestrian thoroughfare with dining from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Sundays. Tables and chairs would be set out at socially distant intervals by the town’s restaurants, with foot traffic permitted beyond.
Importantly, residential buildings would not be blocked within the chosen area, and police and emergency service vehicles would not be impeded. The proposal cites the success of similar programs in cities such as New York, Boston, Seattle, Denver, Milan, and more, hoping to bring that same community atmosphere and financial incentive to the rivertown.
The most developed plan, however, is coming out of Yorktown, where the town has already begun preparing for Phase Two reopening of both outdoor dining and retail services with a comprehensive solution to streamline and expedite the permit process and allow more businesses to reopen faster.
“I’ve already signed emergency orders putting these policies into place,” says Town Supervisor Matt Slater. Slater’s “Reboot Yorktown” task force spoke with local businesses in preparation for what they would need to reopen, and revised the town’s policies and procedures to make the implementation as expedient as possible. Firstly, the process of applying for an outdoor sale/serving permit has been shortened from around 6-8 weeks with the town Planning Board down to just one, pending a brief on-site inspection, and can be done entirely through the Yorktown Building Department. Secondly, the hundreds in dollars of fees typically required for such a permit are being waived in their entirety.
According to Slater, the Building Department is already accepting applications for businesses to open or expand their outdoor space — including retail establishments wishing to host sidewalk sales — with the department beginning to issue permits Monday, June 8 in anticipation of approval for Phase Two reopening on Tuesday, June 9. Restaurants already participating in the program include Nadine’s Restaurant, Yorktown Grille, Pappous Greek Kitchen, Frankie & Augie’Z, Furci’s Italian Dining, Augie’s Prime Cut, and Hudson Valley Steakhouse, which is planning private dining tales and tents in its large parking lot off of Route 202.
“We’re willing to explore any and every option we can to give a helping hand to our restaurant industry,” Slater says.
As businesses reopen, Larchmont is also limiting traffic to expand curbside dining and retail space.
“I have issued an emergency order which allows us to be creative with the use of public space,” says Mayor Lorraine Walsh. “All users of public space need to comply with the Governor’s orders regarding social distancing and need to apply for an expedited permit from the Village. There is no charge to the business for this use.”
The village will be closing down certain bike and parking lanes along Chatsworth and Larchmont Aves and shifting traffic and parking to create a lane of outdoor dining areas. Parking will be moved over, diagonally to increase efficiency in business districts, and even shutting down the small stretch of West Ave in front of Bellasera Ristorante and Hunan Larchmont.
The plan, dubbed “Al Fresco Larchmont,” will also enable local fitness businesses to rent out public space in three of the village’s parks for socially distanced health classes.