Restaurant owners rallying to open sooner


UPDATE: Wednesday, June 3 

It was announced shortly after this story was published that outdoor dining has been approved for phase two of the New York Forward plan. The rally mentioned below will continue as scheduled, in an effort to get indoor dining at 50 percent capacity approved by June 17.

Below is the original story:

Organized by multiple local restaurant and businesses owners from Patchogue Village and Suffolk County, the rally to reopen will be held on Monday, June 8 at 1 p.m. outside county executive Steve Bellone’s Hauppauge office.

“The lockdown for our businesses has to come to an end sooner than later,” Drift 82 and Village Idiot owner John Sarno said, planning to attend the rally.

Sarno said he hopes the peaceful rally will push the state to approve outdoor seating, which has already been passed by the county and local villages. He said he hopes to see Gov. Cuomo reopen by June 24, still over a full two weeks away.

Sarno estimated that every day in which restaurants don’t open, another five to 10 won’t be able to open at all.

“Restaurants have paved the way from the beginning! Our employees and establishments provided to the front lines and the sick. We have been equipped and have taken proper safety measures for over two and a half months now,” he added, hoping to reopen in full should they adhere to all guidelines. “Let’s open now! We need to be peaceful, yet loud enough that Albany hears!”

Mike Bruemmer, owner of the Off Key Tikki in Patchogue, also stands behind the rally. Bruemmer said about 98 percent of his business has been lost as a mostly outdoor dining venue on the water. Though he has been open to takeout, it has been very limited.

“If we can stand on line at home depot, I don’t see why we can’t sit down and have a drink outside,” he added, also stating he would follow six-feet-apart guidelines. “This is a dire situation; if we lose a month it’s like losing a quarter of the year,” he continued, noting that his outdoor seating would have been open for Memorial Day.

Mike Lauria, co-owner of Rudi’s Bar and Grill, echoed his support for the rally. He said although his business has been open to limited to takeout, his business is down 50 percent, with no rent or bill relief.

“People are sick and dying, we understand that, but the businesses have been handcuffed and haven’t been given a break,” he said, sympathetic for the pandemic, but also concerned about losing his business after celebrating eight years open last week. “We still have to pay rent, taxes, utilities and garbage collection… I am not asking for anything free, but it would be nice if they shut us down and worked with us.”

Steve Salerno, Mean Machine band leader, had an interesting take on the closures, also announcing his support for the rally. He and his band play about 110 shows a year with the band’s livelihood dependent on venues in Patchogue like Dublin Deck, 89 North and Stereo Garden, as well as Alive After Five and Alive on the River. Though most of the five band members have day jobs, he said, a lot of them have also been lost due to the pandemic.

“We don’t have any work without restaurants and bars,” he said. “It’s a partnership.”

Councilman Neil Foley also stands behind the movement, calling for the state to allow outdoor seating as soon as possible.

“We have been at this for months now and as a society, I believe restaurants know what needs to be done to socially distance and get people back to work. These businesses are dying as we speak,” he said. “Government should be part of the solution, not the problem.”


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