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'Silver Lining In The Cloud Of The COVID': Long Island Downtowns Re-Envisioning Life After Reopening

OYSTER BAY (CBSNewYork) - Business owners in struggling Long Island downtowns are getting ready to re-open and re-imagine themselves, even though that moment could still be weeks away.

Bistro owners in Oyster Bay are envisioning life after lockdown, with al fresco dining going from being a seasonal treat to become an apres-pandemic essential, reports CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

"If the new normal is outdoor dining, it will be a little more European going forward in life, this is going to be a prettier town," said Michael Taglich, owner of 2 Spring. "It will be a silver lining in the cloud of the COVID."

To make room for it, the Town of Oyster Bay is launching an outdoor dining initiative for when the pause is lifted.

They'll close Oysters Bay's main street weekend evenings to give restaurants room to spread tables apart and eliminate the red tape and permit fees.

"With the street closed here, people can walk the street, diners can be spread out apart a minimum of six feet," said Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino.

Other downtowns can make the requests too as a way of safely re-opening eateries that have been decimated by the shutdown.

"We are doing things like having the doors open, the bar, we have mobile point of sale systems - all of these things are part of the future," said Brad Berrol, owner of IT BGL.

Re-envisioning that future is happening with guidance from Vision Long Island's Eric Alexander who is advising downtowns on innovative ways to re-open, including asphalt as an outdoor room.

"You eliminate on-street parking and allow more tables onto the sidewalk to have physical space," he said. "Back parking lots, removing parking and getting seating there as well."

Indoors, when it is allowed, plastic sheeting can be hung to stop airborne spread.

The big question is not if they can do it, but when. The Long Island region is still not meeting the metrics for even Phase 1, and restaurants are in Phase 3.

"That's quite a long time to expect our restaurants to come back," said Oyster Bay Town Councilman Steve Labriola.

Patrons CBS2 talked to say they'll be ready for outdoor dining.

"I think it's an opportunity to slowly re-open," said one resident. "I think folks will adjust to traffic pattern."

The industry is lobbying the governor to move restaurants into Phase 2.

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