Since outdoor dining began two weeks ago, dining tables and chairs have popped up on sidewalks and in alleyways and parking lots.
And now they're making an appearance in public parks.
To help support local business, North Hempstead town officials are encouraging restaurant-goers to order takeout and bring their food to eat at local parks, where town staff have set up tables with benches.
“Dining out with family and friends is something we all miss,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “We are hopeful that having these picnic tables with benches placed at parks throughout the town will help our local businesses attract more diners and actually give a new meaning to dining out.”
The new initiative was born out of a suggestion from two Manhasset restaurant owners and the town’s Businesses Recovery Response Workgroup, town officials said.
Julia Petropoulos, one of the owners of Herb & Olive Marketa on Plandome Road who came up with the idea, said the park concept was a creative solution to a practical problem.
“We obviously can’t close down Plandome Road,” said Petropoulos, whose market-café had no outdoor space to place dining tables but is across the street from Mary Jane Davies Green. “That is our outdoor dining — in the park."
Town officials said the new measure was put in place to help local restaurateurs, particularly those who don’t have outdoor dining capability, recover.
“It’s for all restaurants,” Bosworth said. “But I would hope that this would really help those restaurants that don’t have the ability to [do] outdoor dining.”
In addition to Mary Jane Davies Green, tables and bulletin boards with menus of nearby restaurants have been placed at Martin Bunky Reid Park in Westbury, Clark Botanic Garden in Albertson and in Blumenfeld Family Park and the Town Dock in Port Washington.
In Oyster Bay Town, officials said staff have also put out tables in major town parks, including John J. Burns Park in Massapequa Park, Marjorie R. Post Community Park in Massapequa and Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay.
“We encourage residents to make our parks and beaches their summertime destination, along with a picnic or meals from local restaurants,” Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino said in a statement.
North Hempstead officials advised patrons to practice social distancing, use the tables for no more than 90 minutes and keep the area free of litter. Each table is limited to no more than six people.
“This is a great alfresco dining option,” Bosworth said. “But we hope that people will clean up after themselves so that they leave the tables ready for the next group to come in.”
In Suffolk County, Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said the town is implementing a similar plan to help alleviate dining capacity limits.
“We are working on setting up areas in our regional parks to assist restaurants to supplement the limited revenue from reduced-capacity, on-site dining,” Lupinacci said in a statement, noting the plan will start with Heckscher Park.