Small businesses brace themselves for Phase 3

Jun 11, 2020

Credit James Brown / WXXI News

Governor Andrew Cuomo says the Finger Lakes can enter phase 3 of reopening Friday. That means eateries like Aladdins on Monroe Avenue can offer indoor service, as can massage parlors, spas and similar establishments. All of these places will have to follow a slew of state guidelines and social distancing protocols. None of these businesses can exceed 50 percent capacity

Owner Eli Mena said he’s willing to try but it is difficult to serve customers inside while following guidelines. He also thinks this move seems rushed.

“I believe it's too soon,” said Mena. “If you push it to phase 4 and you know there is no second wave of COVID-19 then it's clear you can open your business to capacity and people are going to come in easy.”

He said he’ll continue offering pick up service only through the weekend so he can rearrange the restaurant for social distancing. He expects younger diners in their 20s and 30s to be the first customers back. 

On North Winton Road, Balsam Bagels who have been taking orders online for weeks is also preparing to reopen. 

Owner Rebecca Malek said her shop is small and Phase 3 won’t make or break her bottom line. She can only offer limited seating. Malek also said the state guidelines for how to operate restaurants during the pandemic were hard to find at first but have become clearer.

“I do think they’re putting a lot of information out there now. And I managed to find it and I try to keep up with it. I do try to do things correctly,” said Malek.

She said her main focus is on the store’s take out service. They’ve installed plexiglass to separate themselves from the customers as they take and make orders. 

Skylark Lounge owner Angelo Gatto said he’s well aware of state regulations surrounding his South Union Street bar.

“People can’t come in without masks,” said Gatto. “And only so many people can come in. 

there’s only so many chairs. So we’ll see what happens.”

He plans to reopen with outdoor seating Thursday and add indoor seating Friday. 

Even as Phase 3 kicks in, Gatto is concerned whether people will come back in numbers that will make his business sustainable seven days a week. He said he and other bar owners rely on busy nights where they may reach full occupancy. 

“You know if I can’t have Friday and Saturday crazy with DJs and bands, to float the Mondays and Tuesday[s], I might have to just open the best nights. Cut the days that aren’t really super busy. It might make sense economically just to get rid of those days,” said Gatto. 

As he prepares to reopen, he said he is uncertain about how this will all play out and he thinks many other bar owners are in the same spot.