John LaPosta, owner of Innovo Kitchen in Latham, makes sure his tables are six feet apart in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowing restaurants to offer outdoor dining while maintaining 6 feet of social distance (Jim Franco/Spotlight News)
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a sudden change of direction, said Wednesday restaurants could open Thursday for outdoor dining provided customers stay six feet apart.
“We are excited to have people back in our restaurant. That’s what we do. We love hospitality,” said John LaPosta, the owner of Innovo Kitchen in Latham as he was rearranging tables on his patio. “We aren’t too happy about wearing masks because people can’t see us smile, but we will adjust.”
Innovo, like restaurants across the state, has been closed since mid-March to stem the spread of COVID-19. Many restaurants, like Innovo, have kept the doors open for takeout with curbside delivery only.
“It’s been OK. Our customers have been more supportive than I ever could ever have dreamed,” he said.
LaPosta said he is going to spend the remainder of Wednesday and most of the day Thursday getting ready —mainly sanitizing dishes, glasses and utensils — and will welcome diners back to his restaurant on Friday at 4 p.m.
At all restaurants, customers and employees are required to maintain a social distance of six feet and masks are mandated. Sanitization, too, is of paramount importance as the Capital District enters Phase II of Cuomo’s reopening plan.
Until Wednesday’s surprise announcement, customers were not supposed to eat at Capital District restaurants or drink at area bars until Phase III, which, if the infection, fatality and hospital rate numbers hold, is slated to begin on June 17. Phase IV, which is tentatively set for two weeks after that, includes arts and entertainment, recreation and education.
Getting inventory for his restaurant has been an issue since mid-march, when most of the country shut down. LaPosta said that hasn’t changed, but one way or another he and his staff will accommodate an expected large crowd this weekend — even expanding patio seating space to accommodate more people and maintain social distancing.
“The phones has been ringing off the hook,” he said of people making reservations for this weekend. “And we are excited to have them back.”