Salons reopen and restaurants go al fresco, but some eateries still face roadblocks in Phase Two

Nostro Ristorante, an Italian eatery on Greenwood Height’s Fifth Avenue, opened for outdoor dining on Monday.
Photo by Jessica Parks

As New York City transitioned into Phase Two of its reopening on Monday, hair salons and restaurants have been given the green light to open their doors, Brooklyn business leaders said.

“Phase Two is more of a real reopening than Phase One,” said Marc Caserta, executive director of the Park Slope Business Improvement District. “It has more potential to draw more customers and bring more businesses much-needed income.”

In the second phase, restaurants are allowed to open socially-distanced outdoor seating on the sidewalk and in the parking spaces in front of their businesses, and salons, some office buildings, and playgrounds can open to the public once again. 

Business leaders said restaurants situated on attractive business corridors are happy to open outdoor dining space, but that isn’t the case for many restaurants located underneath elevated subway lines or highways. 

“Even if it’s approved … I am not sure if they would have customers willing to sit under the subway,” said Yelena Makhnin, the executive director of the Brighton Beach Business Improvement District.

Most eateries on Brighton Beach Avenue, where many restaurants sit under the subway line, are waiting for Phase Three to allow for indoor dining, and are instead choosing to continue doing take-out and delivery in the interim, she said. 

“Unfortunately, [outdoor dining] is not going to be very helpful in our area,” she said. “Many restaurants still have signs saying takeout and delivery only.”

Space is also a deterrent for a number of restaurants, as city guidelines only allow them to operate two outdoor dining tables in front of their space, and eateries located near bus lanes don’t have the option to expand into the street. 

“It doesn’t treat all restaurants equally, let’s be clear,” said Randy Peers, head of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “If you, for example, happen to be fronting a bus lane or a through lane for traffic, you cannot appropriate that space for outdoor dining.”

He added that growing the city’s open streets program is crucial to many restaurant’s success with outdoor dining.

“We definitely support expanding the open streets program to reasonably accommodating as many restaurant areas as possible,” Peers said. 

The business leaders commended the city’s application process for outdoor dining as seamless and said the costs to restaurant owners in making the transition were minimal. 

“You can use your existing furniture and move it outdoors,” Peers said. “Where I think you are going to have additional costs are with your barriers and barricades.” 

Meanwhile, hair salons and barbershops, who have been closed since the state-ordered shut down in March, are reopening en masse as they had more time to prepare for the new operating regulations, according to the business groups. 

“They are excited to be back, they have been waiting for this,” Caserta said, adding that most of the salons on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue have reopened. “The rules about how to operate properly have been out for quite a while, so they have been preparing for longer and getting the right supplies.”

Peers said he suspects salons will have a strong start to business as many Brooklynites are in much need of a haircut and looked forward to his own hair appointment, scheduled for Monday evening. 

“I think a lot of these businesses are going to see a rush of patronage at least until we get caught up,” Peer said.