NORWALK, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — Wednesday was the day many people in Connecticut have been waiting for — Phase One of the state’s reopening.

On Washington Street in Norwalk, tables and chairs were set up outside for diners and retail was open for businesses.

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Friends gathered at a social distance for the first time outside together in months.

“It feels great. It really, it feels great,” one woman said.

“This is the first feeling, I think, that we have had of normalcy,” said Rita Startup, of Westport, Connecticut.


At Harbor Lights, a waterfront seafood restaurant, quite a few people were having a late lunch outdoors.

“It’s OK. People are trickling in. We don’t have a mass of people coming in, but we expect as the day goes on that more and more people will come in,” restaurant owner Chris Gavrielidis told CBS2’s Alice Gainer.

In addition to masks and gloves worn by the staff, there are other changes.

“We have the six-to-nine foot rule. Tables have to be six feet away but guests with back of their chair have to be nine feet away from each other,” Gavrielidis said.

There are also no more reusable menus; it’s throwaway paper ones or large ones the restaurant made to display.

“Everyone seems very comfortable,” Gavrielidis said.

Watch Christina Fan’s report

At Washington Prime, the tables were packed. Co-owner Rob Moss says customers drove from as far as New Rochelle to dine out.

His reservations through Memorial Day weekend are mostly booked. It’s the first good news he’s receive since losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in business over the last two months.

“I think people want to stretch their legs. Everybody is taking precautions,” Moss told CBS2’s Christina Fan.

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Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling says so far, 30 restaurants have applied online for permits needed to reopen since Monday. Twenty-four have been approved.

The city streamlined the process.

“We take the permit to the various departments that need to sign off so that the business owner doesn’t have to do that and we can get a turnaround in a few hours,” Rilling said.

Families in town say they intend to show their support.

“You don’t want to do dishes anymore and you don’t want to cook anymore, you don’t want to bake anymore, you just want to enjoy yourself,” one woman said.

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On Washington Street, Pellegrini Jewelers was back in business for the first time since March.

“Well, people are coming in, and people have called [to ask], ‘Oh, you’re open? Good,'” owner Larry Pellegrini said.

“We have our [plastic sheets] and our washes and hand sanitizer,” owner Carol Pellegrini said.

“Everybody is coming in with a mask on, and if they have repairs, they put it in there then I take it and look at it. So I mean it’s a little different,” Larry Pellegrini said.

Watch Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s 5/20 coronavirus briefing —

It’s different, but everyone seems to be making due, especially in an area that was hit hard by COVID-19.

“Over 1,900 cases of infected people and 115 of our residents have passed away from the virus,” Rilling said. “We can’t rush into reopening because that will make us take a step backwards. We certainly don’t want to see a spike in the cases.”

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Starting Thursday, parking spaces will be eliminated on Washington Street, and barriers will be put up on the south side to make more room for outdoor dining. It will still be a two-way street for drivers.