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How Long Islanders are keeping the date night spark alive at home

Melanie and Dave Cassens of Port Washington resorted

Melanie and Dave Cassens of Port Washington resorted to escaping to their garage with wine and long-stemmed glasses for a little alone time. Credit: Melanie Cassens

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Kim and Sean Schaefer of South Huntington say they’ve opened a new "date night" venue — they call it “The Outdoor Fire Pit Lounge,” and it’s in their backyard.

Just because couples are living in a stay-at-home era doesn’t mean date night has to be canceled. In fact, it shouldn’t be, says Silas Kelly, a Copiague social worker who runs the “Kelsunn-on-the-Air" social work podcast.

“You could be kind of creative,” Kelly says. “You could listen to some music, sit down and really talk, and just cuddle up, dance, act silly. You lose that in the midst of all the trying to move the ball forward. It’s good to be a couple again.”

Here’s how romantics across Long Island have improvised to keep the spark alive in creative ways during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if their kids are at home:

Create a private backyard bistro

“We usually go on a date night once a month. It’s usually to one of our favorite restaurants,” says Kim Schaefer, 43, a teacher assistant. “Our favorite thing to do in nice weather is we always find a way to eat outside.”

So on one recent nice evening, the Schaefers — Sean, 47, is a plumber — ordered takeout tacos and quesadillas from Pancho Villas in Huntington. The restaurant even prepared them strawberry margaritas.

They lit up their backyard fire pit, put on a favorite playlist, and shared a romantic dinner. “We even joked we had live animal entertainment at our lounge because we have dogs and they were running around. We felt like we were back to our normal life for a while,” Kim says.

Take in a “live” concert

Date night for Jennifer and Michael Ryan of Lindenhurst would typically be hearing live music at a Long Island venue. So when they learned that one of their favorite local musicians, acoustic guitarist Rob Appelblatt, would be livestreaming a performance on social media, date night was a no-brainer.

Jennifer, 48, a teacher, and Michael, 51, a banker, snuggled on their living room couch with a couple of beers and put the concert up on their television set. Fortunately their three sons — Eamon, 8, Declan, 11, and Quinn, 14, had no interest in Mom and Dad’s tunes. “They said, ‘Peace out, we’re going to listen to our music somewhere else,’ ” Jennifer says.

It was better quality couple time than what they’ve been forced to squeeze in during the past month just to spend time alone together. “We have done a run to the bank machine, just the two of us,” she jokes.

Have a “date moment”

For the past couple of weeks, Lisa and David Nelson have both been recovering from COVID-19.

While they haven’t had the energy for a date night, that’s OK, says Lisa, 44, an oncology social worker. She and David, 44, an ultrasound technician, have made sure to have what Lisa dubbed “date moments” instead.

“We kind of just exchange gazes, smooches here and there, trying to keep that kindness and giving spirit to each other,” Lisa says. It’s OK to do that even in front of their teenage son, Josiah, 17, and daughter, Noa, 15. “We try to have them see that interaction between us. I’ll say, ‘I hope you find someone like Daddy.’”

The Nelsons’ 19th anniversary is April 22. Last year, the Roslyn couple was in Georgetown without the kids, enjoying the cherry blossoms and visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This year, they’ll celebrate more simply, she says, probably by ordering from a local Italian restaurant. “That will be our date night,” Lisa says.

Garage goals

Melanie and Dave Cassens’ recent date night was a spontaneous occurrence. “Every night when the kids go to sleep, we turn on CNN and it’s depressing,” says Melanie, 39, a small-business owner from Port Washington and the mom of two children, Walter, 5 and Emma, 6.

One recent Friday night she said to Dave, 40, a trader for a bank, “Let’s do something. Let’s get out of our normal area.”

The couple keeps their patio furniture in their garage over the winter, and the couch in the garage seemed like a great escape — no TV there, and the kids would be safe sleeping in their bedrooms.

They grabbed a bottle of wine and two long-stemmed glasses and headed down to the garage. “I actually put on mascara because I look disgusting all the time,” Melanie says. “We literally stayed down there until the wine was finished. It was the best night; we had so much fun. Now that I’m thinking about it, I kind of want to do it again.”

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