Cold weather and COVID hot spots a concern for restaurants

By CLOEY CALLAHAN
Posted 10/7/20

Restaurants in the region are facing a two-fold problem between the increase of positive cases and cold weather approaching, a situation that might close some doors for good.

Orange County has …

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Cold weather and COVID hot spots a concern for restaurants

Posted

Restaurants in the region are facing a two-fold problem between the increase of positive cases and cold weather approaching, a situation that might close some doors for good.

Orange County has seen a rise of positive COVID-19 cases in the past week, with some even receiving emergency alerts on their mobile devices to be extra cautious. The extreme uptick in Orange County is clustered in Palm Tree, however Newburgh has seen its own increase as well.

While the county continues to closely monitor the number of positive cases, restaurants are breaking out their outdoor heaters or ramping up delivery and preparing to adjust for the cold weather approaching.

Newburgh’s historic North Plank Road Tavern, located at 30 Plank Road, is one of the restaurants who is still trying to get by and survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

North Plank Road Tavern chose to keep its doors closed for a long period of time originally because staying open wasn’t financially viable.

“After about three or four weeks of takeout only we had to shut down because we were losing too much money,” said Newburgh native and Owner Tom Costa.

They reopened their doors mid-August where they have been serving customers fine dining both indoors and outdoors.

“To tell you the truth, it still is not making money,” said Costa. “It is very slow, except for the weekends. It’s not enough to keep the business running, but we are going to try to weather the storm.”

Costa thinks because it is a fine dining restaurant, not as many customers are willing to order takeout or delivery, and at the end of the day choose to order from somewhere else.

Recently, they have put out their outdoor heating lamps to make customers more comfortable with the cooler weather. They have both a patio and garden dining.

“It’s not really comfortable when the weather gets cold and the sun goes down,” said Costa.

Even with the heaters, it isn’t the best option for long-term. Costa considered getting tents and enclosing the outdoor area, but “then you’re not eating outside.”

Costa is unsure if it will be a viable option for November, but he hopes it is helpful for at least October.

While they do offer indoor dining and follow the regulations from both the County and State, not all customers feel safe.

However, they have implemented new specials as well in an attempt to drive business. On October 14 and 15 they are holding a socially distanced “Fall Harvest Dinner” with special food and wine pairings.

Additionally, North Plank Road Tavern has been able to offer contactless pickup where individuals are able to pay on the phone, pull up to the front and an employee places the order in their vehicle.

Similarly, 20-year-old Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, located at 1421 Route 300, hasn’t been able to rely on outdoor dining for the colder season. While they had tables outside that were utilized in the warmer months, it wasn’t feasible for them to invest in outdoor heating and tents.

“There was a chance we were going to go to lower occupancy or gone completely to take out again so we didn’t want to make the investment,” said owner Kevin Jones.

Instead, they are turning to third party delivery partners like Postmates, Uber Eats, Doordash and others, and ramping up their to-go efforts.

“People are feeling uncomfortable coming inside,” said Jones. “But the guests and employees understand the protocols to keep us all safe.”

Like North Plank Road Tavern and many other restaurants across the country, they too are implementing curbside pickup for guests that do not feel comfortable coming in.

They designated three spots for outside the restaurant for those who are not comfortable coming in. Guests can pull up, call and then employees bring it right to the car.

“Our thought process was ‘hey how do we help guests that want our food and love our food and get the opportunity to order if they’re fearful of coming inside,’” said Jones.

Indoor capacity is still limited by state regulations to no more than 50 percent maximum occupancy, exclusive of employees.

Indoor capacity is limited to the number of tables that can be safely and appropriately arranged with a six foot distance between one another.

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