NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Many people in our area have reached another big checkpoint on the road to reopening.
Westchester, Rockland and other counties in the Mid-Hudson Region entered Phase 3 on Tuesday. That means the return of some everyday activities that may have been taken for granted before.
Two weeks after the reintroduction of outdoor table service, indoor dining is back on the menu at Nautilus Diner in Mamaroneck, with every-other-table seating to allow social distancing at 50% capacity and stepped-up sanitizing.
“Being able to sit down, have a meal, you know, it’s like winning the lottery right now,” customer Zach Schwartz told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.
“Everybody’s missing it so much. They’re so happy to be back,” Nautlilus owner Ted Efstathiou added.
Toasting to a turning point in the pandemic, Yani Triantos and Keeana Toliver were among the first seated at Maria restaurant in New Rochelle on Tuesday.
“Glad to be back. It feels normal again,” Toliver said.
“We felt comfortable,” Triantos said.
Having customers feel comfortable is just about the best compliment the Cucullo brothers could hope for right now.
“It’s all for safety, it’s all for safety,” Giovani Cucullo told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
They’ve been working to reopen at 50% capacity indoors since closing March 16.
“It was really a tough go, but we made it,” Peter Cucullo said.
Watch Jessica Layton’s report —
Walk inside any restaurant right now and you’re going to see changes, from social distancing signs to sanitizer and even thermometers on some tabletops.
At Maria, there are quite literally precautions with every plate.
“The roll-up with the utensils in it, and we wrap it all in plastic so it’s clean, it’s sanitized,” Giovani Cucullo said.
They’re looking for everyone who has been stuck in the house to feel right at home in their restaurant.
“With the help of friends, family and a supportive clientele, we can see it through,” Giovani Cucullo said.
And they’re happy to be pampered from feet to fingers. Phase 3 allows nail salons and spas to reopen. Aiello saw protective dividers hanging from the ceiling at Sun Nails in New Rochelle. He also saw workers in full face shields and patrons experiencing that unique bliss from a pedicure and foot massage.
“It feels unbelievable right now. It makes you feel better and just kind of brings you back to normalcy, and I think that’s what everyone is looking for,” New Rochelle resident Matt Cohen said.
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If you’re looking for a tattoo, that’s in Phase 3 as well.
“We got tons and tons of appointments, lotta people, you know, waiting to come in,” said Adam Kaplan of Big Joe & Sons in White Plains.
Big Joe & Sons has already sterilized equipment, and now has a plexiglass divider for added safety, and protocols to limit capacity. There will be no bringing friends to watch as you get new ink.
It has been a tough three months for the owner and staff.
“Never sure when we’d be able to reopen. Just basically getting used to sitting around doing nothing when we’re used to working all the time,” Kaplan said.
In two weeks, Phase 4 could bring further relaxing of restrictions, leaving Westchester County Executive George Latimer with a lot to ponder.
“Summertime music concerts in towns and villages, are those going to be workable with social distancing? What are we going to do to get ready for what might be at the very least the fall school sports season?” Latimer said.
Phase 3 also means gatherings of more than 25 people in private homes are allowed, so expect a lot more big backyard barbecues in the northern suburbs.