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Some mom-and-pop stores say they are ready to open 'in full'

Small business owners in Sayville and nearby communities said social distancing guidelines limiting the number of patrons inside stores are too restrictive and will continue to hurt businesses, even after they open. want more control on how they open their stores.  Credit: James Carbone

Long Island's long-awaited reopening can't happen soon enough for Sayville's hard-hit downtown, community leaders said Tuesday.

Shops closed for more than two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic were busy getting ready for customers after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Nassau and Suffolk counties had met the criteria to start a phased reopening.

But the leader of Sayville's downtown said social distancing guidelines limiting the number of patrons inside stores are too restrictive and will continue to hurt businesses, even after they open.

“We feel we can open in full right now,” said Eileen Tyznar, president of the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce, adding that stores have installed Plexiglas dividers to protect customers and staff, and plan to provide hand sanitizers to customers. “They have signs inside their stores telling them where they can stand. … We’re giving them disposable gloves.” 

The governor said Tuesday Long Island could start reopening Wednesday in a phased process designed to avoid a recurrence of coronavirus.

The reopening is too late for at least three Sayville businesses that have closed permanently, Tyznar said. About 60% of the downtown closed temporarily, and restaurants that provide takeout and delivery are "barely" getting by, she said.

Tyznar and chamber of commerce leaders from Holbrook, Lake Ronkonkoma, Bayport-Blue Point, Farmingville and Middle Country held a news conference Tuesday morning in Sayville, where they announced a campaign, called #WeCanDoItBetter, promoting small businesses.

They encouraged people to shop at small local stores rather than box stores, many of which remained open because they offer at least some products and services that were considered essential under state guidelines.

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Tyznar, who said her educational services advocacy business has closed temporarily because of coronavirus, said the state's definitions of essential and nonessential businesses frustrated many merchants.

“The phases were not mapped out very clearly," she said. "It's very convoluted. It’s very ambiguous. It’s not clear. There’s no rubric that even makes sense for it. ... People were saying, 'Am I allowed? Am I not allowed?' ”

Under the state reopening plan, construction companies can resume working immediately and some retail stores may offer curbside pickup. More retail businesses would reopen in about two weeks in a second phase if Long Island continues to see declines in deaths and new infections. Bars, restaurants and theaters would reopen in later phases.

Tyznar said Long Island's reopening gives shopkeepers some hope.

“They’re so excited to be able to sell," she said. "They’re seeing the light.” 

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