Owner Dan Monteforte serves brisket and ribs at Swingbellys in Long...

Owner Dan Monteforte serves brisket and ribs at Swingbellys in Long Beach on Wednesday. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Outdoor dining slugged into action early on Long Island Wednesday as restaurants reopened patios, courtyards and pop-up tents hastily erected in parking lots to serve patrons who haven't been able to eat out in nearly three months.

Huntington woke up to the sound of something the town hadn’t heard since March: the clink of glasses and chatter of brunch patrons on New Street. On the patio at popular brunch spot the Shed there were just six tables.

Shayna Iorio, of Dix Hills, and Jose Velez, of Manhattan,...

Shayna Iorio, of Dix Hills, and Jose Velez, of Manhattan, dine at The Shed in Huntington Wednesday. Credit: Linda Rosier

“It’s super exciting,” said Samantha Maneggio, the Shed’s regional manager. “We’ve been doing takeout, of course, and trying to do all these fun things like wave to our regular guests as they walk by, but we’ve been waiting a long time for this moment.”

There had already been a few hiccups. At one table, someone had put a whole stack of cards with QR codes for accessing the menu instead of just a single one, meaning that all the cards would need to be thrown away after the patrons left. “And we brought a drink to the wrong table, so we had to get rid of it,” Maneggio sighed.

In the alley behind Tim’s Shipwreck Diner on Main Street in Northport, about a half-dozen diners were in place by 11 a.m., while nearby, Maria Maroni of Maroni’s Cuisine readied her portion of the same alley for Wednesday’s dinner service.

In Long Beach, Raj Brandston, a corporate chef from Far Rockaway, made a detour on his daily bike ride to Swingbellys for an early barbecue lunch.

Raj Brandston of Far Rockaway dines outside at Swingbellys in Long...

Raj Brandston of Far Rockaway dines outside at Swingbellys in Long Beach on Wednesday. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

“It’s exhilarating to be sitting down in a restaurant drinking a beer waiting for my food,” he said.

Swingbellys usually has seating for more than 60 customers outside; the state’s 6-feet-apart guidelines have taken that number down to 30. “It’s a challenge to stay in line with state regulations, Nassau County regulations and City of Long Beach regulations,” said co-owner Dan Monteforte. “The city building department has already come by this morning to check that tables are far enough apart.”

Restaurants that have never offered outdoor dining are working with what they have. At Sangria 71 in Island Park, that’s the parking lot.

The outdoor dining space at Sangria 71 in Island Park on...

The outdoor dining space at Sangria 71 in Island Park on Wednesday. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

“We tried to eliminate the ambience of the parking lot,” said manager Joey Fernandez, whose father and uncle, Jose and Rosendo Fernandez, own three Sangria 71 locations on Long Island. They laid artificial turf over the four spaces directly in front of the restaurant and placed empty wine casks at the corners of the new “dining room,” which is shaded by tents in the red and yellow of the Spanish flag.

In Rockville Centre, the rooftop of Kasey’s Kitchen & Cocktails began to fill up as people got the jump on happy hour. The umbrella-ed and shrubbed space usually accommodates 146 people; now there is room for about 70. 

Partner Anthony Geraci explained that while the menu was essentially the same, traditional table service had been superseded by “fast-casual” service. “We made one line for people to order their food, and then there are two lines at the bar where they can order drinks. You pay when you order and then everything is then brought to the table.”

In Patchogue, a town known to let its hair down, the first happy hour of Phase 2 seemed quieter than usual — but outdoor areas abounded throughout downtown. At Blue Point Brewing Co., the beer garden was open and dotted with picnic tables. The entire experience was contactless; to eat or drink, patrons took a picture of a QR code on their phone, which sent them to a web page for ordering and payment. An outdoor mobile trailer served as a bathroom, although for only one person at a time.

In downtown Patchogue, the BrickHouse Brewery and Restaurant had also reopened its atmospheric, walled back garden, albeit with fewer tables and a strict 90-minute reservation rule — so staff can keep reservations flowing, as well as have enough time to sanitize between guests, according to manager Jack Vestal. “We’re doing everything we can to comply with the [Phase 2] rules,” he said. (Three tables in front of the brewery are maintained for walk ins).

At Great South Bar on South Ocean Avenue, co-owner Terence Daly said the village has been “great” about working with local businesses opening during Phase 2. He had installed three brand-new tables on the sidewalk, two of which were full at 5 p.m. Although the bar has been open for cocktails to go — some of them canned on a newly acquired machine — Daly said it was a relief to be open. “Last night I couldn’t sleep. It was like the first day of school.”

The vibe was decidedly festive a few miles away at JT’s on the Bay, a tucked-away waterside spot in nearby Blue Point, where owner Justin Templeman was wearing a neon green face mask as he welcomed back locals to the deck. He had removed tables to about half capacity, he said, and was busy running drinks and lobster rolls to tables himself.

“We’re just trying to provide a sense of normalcy,” said Tempelman, who owns two other spots in town. “I have 75 people who work for me and I want to be able to send some of the kids back to school with money in their pockets.”

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