Legislator: “Everyone is following the guidelines”
As restaurants in the Highlands prepare to resume indoor dining as early as next week, Putnam health officials say they asked some towns to “ease up on some of their restrictions” on outdoor dining.
In a meeting of the Legislature’s Health Committee held by audio-link on Tuesday (June 16), Shawn Rogan, director of environmental services, highlighted the need for coordination between the county and its towns and villages.
“I felt it was critical to make sure we were all progressing toward approving outdoor dining in the most reasonable way, so there would not be delays,” he told the legislators. “We were looking for some of the towns” — he named no names — “to ease up on some of their restrictions.”
The towns responded in positive ways, he said, such as by giving code enforcement officers leeway “to do their jobs” and “to evaluate proposals” to expand outdoor dining. Countywide, more than 24 restaurants are providing new outdoor table service, he said.
The Health Department continues to advocate social distancing, the wearing of masks in public and other basic measures, he said.
Legislator Bill Gouldman of Putnam Valley said that he had eaten out four times recently and observed that “everyone is following the guidelines.”
Dr. Michael Nesheiwat, the health commissioner, who was also at the meeting, said “restaurant owners and chefs police themselves very well. They don’t want a bad outcome; they don’t want any complaints.”
To provide safety for indoor diners, Legislator Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown, said some restaurants are installing Plexiglas “walls” around tables. If they do so, she asked, must they still keep tables 6 feet apart?
Rogan said that the state gives restaurants with 5-foot-tall barriers between tables an exemption from the 6-foot rule. However, noting that the state guidelines for restaurants fill 13 pages, he encouraged restaurant owners “to call us to work through it.”
Legislator Amy Sayegh of Mahopac asked about catered events at private homes. Rogan said that while his office oversees the catering industry, “we don’t monitor private events at homes” and would “absolutely not” drop by to enforce social distancing.