New London

Restaurant Owners Discuss Challenges of Possible May 20 Reopening

If COVID-19 hospitalizations decline for 14 days in a row, restaurants will be able to open for outdoor dining only on May 20.

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The City of New London hosted a video call for restaurant owners Monday to discuss challenges and questions ahead of a potential partial reopening on May 20.

“There are no two restaurants in this city that are alike. You are all in different neighborhoods, you will have different needs, different obstacles to overcome," Mayor Michael Passero said on the video call. “We are here to help you individually.”

More than 50 people, including city leaders, restaurant owners and journalists, were on the call. Some restaurant owners shared concerns.

Barry Neistat, co-owner of Muddy Waters Cafe, is ready to set up his back deck for socially distanced service. He is planning to have eight tables on the deck and three tables outside of the cafe. While he has the space, he mentioned that a lot of his clientele are people who work in offices downtown together.

"They come in usually three, four at a time," said Neistat. "Can they sit at a table together?"

Neistat said that he has not received a definite answer to his question and mentioned that there are still many gray areas.

The purpose of the city-led call was to navigate some of the gray areas, learn what challenges restaurant owners are facing and what questions are on their mind.

Jack Chaplin, owner of Daddy Jack's, said that he is going to work to get creative to make sure the business can still function and turn a profit while open for outdoor service and takeout only. Chaplin said that he is planning to change the concept in the restaurant, to meet the changing times, and create a different menu.

"How are you going to do any kind of volume that is going to be viable financially?" said Chaplin, describing his "biggest" question.

Daddy Jack's has limited space on a patio out front that Chaplin estimates can fit about four socially distanced tables, but he is hoping to rent several parking spots and set up a tent and chairs to increase outdoor dining. He said that he wants the end plan to have, "some kind of entertainment, food, drinks, public safety."

Passero said that the city is willing to work with restaurant owners to make public space outside of various restaurants available for outdoor dining. They will be expediting any zoning permits that are needed to accommodate that.

"We want to make sure every restaurant has equal access to all of the city resources," said Passero.

Felix Reyes, director of the Office of Development & Planning for the City of New London, is asking all restaurant owners to email him with a reopening plan and, any concerns they have. His email address is

“Every restaurant is different. No two restaurants are the same. We just want to make sure that we give every restaurant owner time to say, 'this is how I plan to open up.' Whether the city can help or not, it is still good to share a strategic plan to get this up and operational," Reyes told restaurant owners on Monday's call.

Small business owners with 50 or fewer employees can apply for personal protective equipment at this link. The City of New London Fire Department will deliver the requested PPE to any New London businesses.

Any restaurant owner looking to cook outside is asked to contact the Fire Marshal's office to navigate any fire code requirements that may apply.

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