‘It's Been Essential:' One Week of Outdoor Dining in CT

After one week of outdoor dining in Connecticut, NBC Connecticut checked in with some businesses on the shoreline to see how things are going.

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It has been one week since restaurants in Connecticut were allowed to partially reopen for outdoor dining under the state's phase one reopening plan.

Kokomo's Restaurant in Old Lyme is just one of many restaurants along the shoreline that depends on a busy summer season to drive revenue. According to the general manager of the restaurant, Drew McLachlan, the first week of outdoor dining started off slow, but as the weather improved, so did business.

"Friday was a sunny day and we were very busy. It was very impressive," said McLachlan. "I was happy with the way customers responded. Everyone was understanding about having to wear the masks."

McLachlan said that if every week of summer sees the same amount of customers as the first week, they will be in good shape.

"It's been essential in us being able to make up that lost revenue," said McLachlan.

Kokomo's, a beachfront restaurant, has expanded outdoor seating. People are welcome to sit on their back patio or at tables on their private beach. They also have lounge chairs set up six feet apart, serviced by a VIP beach server at various times throughout the week.

Customers are asked to read menus off of their phones to limit shared touchpoints. There is hand sanitizer throughout the restaurant. Servers wear masks and gloves at all times, as required, according to McLachlan.

McLachlan said that they did not experience major issues in their first week. Their outdoor bar is not open at this time.

"I think maintaining people's responsibility about their own social distancing once the bar opens might be somewhat of a challenge," said McLachlan. "We are looking forward to seeing what the governor's executive order says."

Just a 30-minute drive down the state's shoreline, Abbott's Lobster in the Rough is riding a similar learning curve. Owner of Abbott's, Chelsea Leonard, said it is hard to predict what their summer will be like after Memorial Day weekend, because of the rain, but they did see a steady stream of customers.

"It is now just making sure that everything is over-communicated to customers and that they understand what is expected of them, as we understand what is expected of us to keep everyone safe," said Leonard.

Abbott's is open at half capacity, according to Leonard, but there is still plenty of room for outdoor dining. Distance markers are in place to show where people should stand in line. People are asked to wear masks and respect the distancing requirements.

The restaurant is using a new protocol to make sure all tables are disinfected on a regular basis. Customers are asked to only sit at tables that have a green seashell on them. When a guest places an order, he/she is given a red seashell. The guest is asked to leave the red seashell on the table before leaving.

"So that our staff knows to clean it and everyone else knows not to sit there," explained Leonard.

Leonard said that moving forward, her team's biggest challenge will be remaining vigilant.

"Continue to track our cleaning, enforce the social distancing measures, and not really let up," said Leonard. "That will be our challenge as we continue out through the summer and get busier and busier."

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