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Increased capacity is big help for restaurants

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on March 19 that the maximum capacity for indoor dining could increase to 75 percent in Nassau County and 50 percent in Manhattan.

The announcement was good news for the restaurant owners and managers across East Meadow because they will no longer have to turn away as many potential diners because of capacity guidelines.

“It’s great for business,” said George Strifas, owner of the Colony Diner. “It’s great for my staff, my servers making their tips. All day long we hear from people who have been recently vaccinated and they cleared the three week period and go ‘Hey, we’re back.’”

And the greater ability to pay bills with more customers coming in means less stress, Strifas added.

The announcement came at the one-year anniversary of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran joining government officials across the country to declare a State of Emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Each day since then we’ve had no choice but to persevere through what has become a defining year in our lives,” she said, in a statement coinciding with the announcement. “Today, however, I can say with confidence that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and brighter.”

Strifas said he’s been seeing more customers coming in ready to dine inside. “We’re totally getting back to normal,” he said. “The last three weeks have been gradually increasing nicely.”

And every step getting back to normal is encouraging, said Paul Haggerty, the manager of Jake’s Steakhouse.

“We don’t have capacity for 75 percent with the social distancing guidelines, unfortunately” Haggerty said. “So, we’re currently at 50 percent and keeping our barriers up in the meantime, until we can open up our outdoors”

With warmer weather on the horizon, he said there was much to look forward to at Jake’s Steakhouse. “We should have more success and more people able to come in,” Haggerty said.

The pandemic has been an especially difficult period for restaurant owners and staff, as for months they were only able to serve take-out or a very limited amount of people in indoor or outdoor dining spaces.

Strifas said keeping the staff and customers healthy and safe was also among his greatest concerns, along with the financial burden that came with reduced capacity.

“We faired pretty well,” Haggerty said. “We have had regular patrons get sick and pass away, we’ve had staff members who got sick who had to miss an extended amounts of time, but that’s everywhere.”

Right now, the staff at Jake’s Steakhouse is looking forward to expanding operations outside.

Brian Steiglitz contributed to this story.