Huntington Town officials are fast-tracking permit approvals for businesses seeking to recapture customers as the region heads into Phase 2 of reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a news conference outside Town Hall Tuesday, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said dialogue over the past couple of months with local business leaders, restaurants and merchants led to ideas such as expanding the location of outdoor dining and retail sales and waiving permit application fees.
These temporary changes will allow merchants to create street markets and restaurants to expand their outdoor dining onto public property, such as sidewalks and municipal parking lots.
“As Huntington reopens for business, the town is here to help simplify and accelerate that process, waiving many fees associated with temporary outdoor dining approvals, sidewalk retail, and creating new processes with no fees, to help our businesses get back on their feet,” Lupinacci said.
Town board members Mark Cuthbertson, Gene Cook, Joan Cergol and Ed Smyth, and Andrea Bonilla, chairwoman of the Huntington Small Business Economic Recovery Task Force, were also at the announcement.
The town also launched a resources page on its website to help businesses navigate the reopening and permit processes.
“Retail stores inherently have tight margins so local government needs to soften regulations, so folks can make money while operating at a lower capacity,” Cuthbertson said.
The town’s Zoning Board of Appeals has created a simplified application process to offer temporary on-premises outdoor dining on private property, including areas not typically used for outdoor dining, such as sections of parking lots on private property.
Even so, the process can still be tricky, board member Smyth said.
“If businesses have any difficulty with the new procedures I'm available to help,” he said.
Cergol said everyone needs to work together for a successful reopening.
“Our business owners need to do what they do best, government needs to bend and be nimble, and our residents and visitors need to safely patronize Huntington’s acclaimed restaurants and other establishments with the same enthusiasm as before,” she said.
For retail establishments, the town has created a process that allows merchants to display items and operate on a public sidewalk in front of their store.
The resources page also includes guidance on construction permits affected by the coronavirus shutdown and instructions on how to reserve metered municipal parking outside storefronts in the Huntington Village Business District.
Council member Cook encouraged residents to reach out to him for help or to offer ideas.
“It is a priority to get business open ASAP,” he said. “As a business owner for close to 40 years I understand the hardships that these business owners are going through. I ask any business owner that has comment, an idea, or just wants to vent.”