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Nassau County is extending its Restaurant Recovery Grant Program


Since Garden Social, in East Meadow, reopened last June, it has been making costly investments to gain the trust of consumers and generate more interest in dining out, explained Bob Russo, one of its owners.

“We’ve really gone above and beyond to try and make sure that we’re doing everything we can,” Russo said in a video he posted to the restaurant’s Facebook page last week.

Filming from the restaurant, Russo was interrupted by a piercing, high-pitched noise that sounded like it was coming from behind him. “I’m going to show you what’s going on here,” Russo said, and then focused on a man shooting a dense mist at the walls and surfaces of the restaurant with an air purifier that resembled something you might see in a “Ghostbusters” movie.

The man was Tim Mc-Donough, of East Meadow, and the equipment he was wielding, from his company Air 4 Life, uses hospital-grade disinfectant to kill bacteria, viruses and allergens. It is one of the methods Russo and his co-owners have introduced to make Garden Social a safer place to dine as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.

The restaurant is getting some help to implement such practices from the Nassau County Restaurant Recovery Grant Program, which is providing $5,000 to $10,000 to eateries to help them offset costs brought on by the pandemic.

County Executive Laura Curran introduced the program in November — at Garden Social — and it was set to end after the winter. She announced on Monday, however, that the program would continue accepting submissions until it runs out of funds.

Curran called the program “a lifeline to full-service restaurants, working hard to meet the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.” Made possible by a $2.2 million investment of federal funds from the Community Development Block Grant, the money can be used for operating expenses, including payroll, rent, utilities, personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies; the lease or purchase of equipment, such as kitchen equipment or delivery vehicles; and pandemic-related business improvements, like patio heaters and contactless technology. Restaurants can apply for a grant at nassaucountyny.gov/restaurantrecovery.

“It’s definitely a start,” said Dave Boller, another of the owners of Garden Social. “It’s so nice that they’re doing what they can to help small businesses out.”

In addition to purifying with Air 4 Life, Garden Social is deep-cleaned every day by the Hicksville company Majestic Cleaning. It also installed an air-filtration system built by AtmosAir Solutions in Fairfield, Conn. The system emits ions into the air that bind to contaminants and neutralize them, according to the company.

“It’s all about attention to detail and understanding what makes people feel safe,” Boller said.

Another challenge for establishments like Garden Social is trying to find the right kind of entertainment to attract customers while not posing safety risks. Many bars once drew and kept a crowd thanks to events like karaoke nights or bar games like darts and pool.

One activity Garden Social planned to kick off on Tuesday is trivia night, which will take place once a week starting at 7 p.m. Guests can answer questions on their phones at their tables without having to make contact with anyone else. 

“Nobody wants to be in this position — it’s not ideal,” Boller said. “But you have to do what you can do to move forward.”