Opening day: Darien retailers and restaurants continue to open this week
“It’s wonderful to be open,” said Darien Sport Shop owner Gina Zangrillo, of the first day back for shoppers.
The long-awaited Wednesday, May 20, reopening of many retail stores and outdoor-dining only in restaurants has kept many local restaurant staffs, retailers and town officials busy preparing.
Though some Darien salons were ready and eager for the reopening, Gov. Ned Lamont has pushed back the opening of hair salons and barbershops until June 1, while nail salons, tattoo shops, theaters, gyms, musical events, indoor dining and bars await further notice
On Tuesday, the state’s net hospitalizations declined for the 27th consecutive day, and the 23 fatalities was the lowest one-day total since April 6.
At noon on Wednesday, Zangrillo said the store had already had many customers at the Sport Shop.
“They are delighted that we are open and also very complimentary on our setup and the precautions we have taken. I am pleased to report that all customers are wearing face protection,” she said.
Earlier in May, Zangrillo told The Darien Times the store had already put in place purchasing masks and gloves for all of its employees, and much more frequent cleaning of high traffic areas. “We also have a dedicated person to clean doorknobs and sitting rooms, benches and counters, an automatic front door, hands-free sanitizers in key areas, hands-free cash registers, and a contact-less checkout.”
With regard to social distancing, Zangrillo said she plans to adhere to state guidelines.
Darien Toy Box owner Bill Jensen said it was “early yet” in the day and he had had a few customers as of 12:30, while some continued with curbside pickup.
“Customers who have come inside, have worn masks and gloves and not touched anything. Everyone is being very nice about the whole thing,” Jensen said.
“We are all cautious over this,” he said. “We can beat this if we all do our part.”
Johnny’s Records reopened 10 a.m. and said early Wednesday afternoon they had a few customers so far.
“People are still being cautious. I’d call it a ‘reserved opening,’” he said.
As far as masks, customers can wear them “if they want to,” but it is not required, and the store is limited to three customers at a time.
Sokayri Atelier and Boutique, which makes custom clothing, also reopened Wednesday, and was selling custom-sewn masks in various colors, including some that are embroidered with “I’m smiling.” See more about the custom masks on the store’s Facebook page.
Owner Elena Niejelow said the “I’m smiling” embroidery is added to spread positivity as masks will not allow us to see each other’s smile. Smiling, along with business, has been a bit of a challenge for Sokayri, as the store creates clothing for events, and most of them have been canceled. Niejelow says the masks — which she initially was donating — don’t bring in as much income as the clothing did but definitely can help her pay the rent.
Some local retailers, like The Dock Shop and Barrett Bookstore, are remaining closed to inside shopping and aiming to reopen on June 1. Barrett Bookstore is continuing curbside pickup and has extended its hours to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
On the eve of the reopening, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson issued a Code Red phone message to all subscribed residents.
Regarding restaurants, she said, “All businesses will require the use of hand sanitizer and the wearing of masks by both customers and employees. Physical distancing measures will be implemented and enforced.”
“[May 20’s] Phase 1 of reopening is a small step in our pandemic recovery. However, we must all be mindful that it’s up to each of us to follow the guidelines so everyone will be safe from the spread of the virus. Anyone who is sick must stay home and we recommend that people over 65 or who have medical vulnerabilities should also stay home and stay safe,” Stevenson said.
Both in early May and Wednesday morning at the Operations Planning Committee meeting of town board heads, Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Steve Olvany said officials had been working with local restaurants to expand their outdoor seating. All town meetings are currently virtual with only Stevenson participating from Town Hall.
On Tuesday, Jeremy Ginsberg, the town’s planning and zoning director, told The Darien Times the department is working with local restaurants to plan for the expanded outdoor seating.
Additionally, in order to provide temporary outdoor alcohol sales, a state application will be needed that requires the town sign-off from Planning & Zoning, health, and fire marshal departments, Olvany said.
Those dining establishments who wish to offer outdoor service of alcoholic beverages need local and state approvals. To fill out an application, which is free, visit ct.gov/dcp, click Liquor Control Division, and then Applications and Forms. The name of the form is Patio, Extension of Use, And/or Additional Consumer Bar Application.
On Monday, the Board of Selectmen, in a unanimous motion, granted permission for the use of town property and/or off-street parking areas, for dining to take place.
This motion was made in light of the governor’s requirement, effective May 20, that restaurants and retailers can only be open for outdoor dining.
“In order to help facilitate that, the town will allowing for tents and seating to be arranged,” Stevenson said.
At the OPC meeting Wednesday morning, Stevenson said residents should practice safety measures as the state slowly reopens. She said that if businesses require masks in order to enter, patrons should respect that policy. Stevenson also said the town has made available a supply of disposable masks for those businesses that intend to require them, so a customer does not get turned away for that reason.
On Wednesday, Stevenson personally delivered masks throughout town to local retailers.
Tables are required to be six feet apart, and no more than five chairs can be at a table. Also, only half the normal capacity can be served at a time in an establishment.
Stevenson also pointed out that the reopening isn’t a mandate to reopen, and some businesses might chose to wait.
David Genovese of Baywater Properties, said he and his tenants, which include Bodega, Ten Twenty Post and Baldanza, were excited for Wednesday.
“We are also very concerned about and focused upon approach and safety. We have been working closely with many of our customers, especially the restaurants, where the approach to opening is more complex given the nature of their business,” he said.
Bodega has a large tent set up to expand for outdoor dining that can be shared with UCBC Bakery and Cafe during the day.
Ten Twenty Post has reopened and will be open for outdoor dining seven days a week.
Others that are now open including Nino’s, Rory’s, Bodega, Upper Crust Bagels, and Melting Pot.
Three restaurants that will be using their existing outdoor seating by just scooting a table or 2 around and Uncles, Heights Pizza, Michael Josephs, Louie’s, Baldanza, Aux Delices, Burgers, Shakes, & Fries, Melting Pot, Scena and Mama Carmella’s using tables out front
The Goose, which also has a tent installed in the parking lot as of Wednesday, welcomed First Selectman Jayme Stevenson for dinner Wednesday evening.
Water’s Edge at Giovanni’s also reopened on Wednesday. Its Facebook page announced it would be open from 5 to 8:30 p.m on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday until 9 p.m. On Saturday, it will be open from 1 to 9 p.m. and on Sunday, from 1 to 8 p.m. The new entrance and outdoor dining is in the back.
Owner JoAnn Latorraca said she and her staff were “so excited to interact with people.”
“We are willing to do all the mandated requirements, gloves and masks. We have a gorgeous tent. We’re just really excited to see everyone. It’s amazing how isolated everyone feels,” Latorraca said.
Bob Mazza of the Sugar Bowl, which opens from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., said the beloved Post Road eatery served about 50 patrons in their 18 chairs set up outside Wednesday. There was no waiting and he said everyone was happy to see them.
“We did OK for our first day. A lot of people didn’t know we were open yet.”
Mazza also pointed out another challenge to outdoor only seating — the temperature.
“It was a little cold this morning,” he said.
Mazza said much like everyone else, “I’ve really missed my food.”
“I had a bacon, egg and cheese this a.m. I’ve had them elsewhere, but I think we make a pretty good one.”
As far as the reaction — Mazza said it was a nice feeling.
“The customers who came in wished us well. They really did miss us.”
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