Malls, Retailers, Restaurants Prepare For Phase 1 of Reopening

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As the state begins phase 1 of reopening, retailers, restaurants and malls are prepping for the first day of Gov. Ned Lamont's plans to open the state.

At Connecticut Post Mall, you can see the signs of change before you walk in the door.

"All the entrances into the mall have been labeled either exit on one side or entrance or the entrance," said Ken Sterba, general manager of the mall.

This is one of the several precautions the shopping center is taking to make customers feel safe. The mall will have reduced hours of operation beginning on Wednesday. From May 20 through June 20, the center will operate Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.

The mall is limiting capacity to 50% and the center has temporarily canceled several events to practice social distancing. The center is implementing an ambassador program to welcome guests as they enter the mall and will provide hand sanitizer and face coverings for shoppers.

Photos: Malls, Retailers, Restaurants Prepare For Phase 1 of Reopening

The center also implemented plexiglass dividers inside restrooms and at different stores and put up different signs to encourage social distancing.

At the food court, there are no signs of chairs or tables, the mall only offering to-go orders inside.

"There's no eating what-so-ever inside the mall," said Sterba.

The mall is expecting 25 to 30 stores to open up on Wednesday, but officials told NBC Connecticut that number could change.

Dicks Sporting Goods is expected to open on Thursday, Boscovs is expecting to open on Thursday and Macy's is expected to open on Friday.

The mall is preparing to install UV-sanitation devices on all escalator handrails in June.

Mall officials said their priority for both small businesses and large retailers is protecting public health.

"Everybody in this building is trying to do you know what's best for the customers to make them feel like they can come in here and be safe," said Sterba.

In New Britain, Amatos Toys is also working to be ready for phase 1.

"I'm looking forward to having them come in and I want them to feel safe but it won't be an insult for any reason if they don't want to come in," said Steven Amato, co-owner of Amato's Toys. "We are happy to bring out any purchased items to the customers."

Meanwhile, businesses like Mama Teresa's Italian Restaurant & Pizza is embarking on a fairly new process to offer outdoor seating.

"We've never gone through anything like this," said Domenic Testani, co-owner of Mama Teresa's. "We don't know if we're going to be ready to go for tomorrow but we're trying to get the whole process going."

They applied for a temporary outdoor dinning permit Tuesday and now they are awaiting confirmation from the city if they can offer outside dining.

"We have to go through the process and I know they have their hands full," said Testani.

The business said they've only seen a 10% to 20% decrease in business thanks largely to delivery and takeout options. But, they say personal protective equipment and staffing is a concern.

"Every week, we're asking our distributors for gloves and I can't get them," said Testani. "We don't know how many people we will need to service that small area."

Testani told NBC Connecticut that they still have a goal of keeping customers safe.

"We're looking forward to it," said Testani. "We've met the challenge from day one, so we're looking forward to serving our customers.

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