Diagram from Riverhead Town's outdoor dining permit application, showing example of sidewalk seating.

Riverhead Town has begun accepting applications for temporary outdoor dining permits that will allow restaurants to expand their seating capacity with outdoor tables once the state allows restaurants to reopen.

Under current state guidelines, restaurants will not be allowed to reopen until Phase Three of the state’s four-phase reopening plan — which, under current guidelines would not be until at least June 24.

The New York Forward reopening plan requires a minimum of two weeks between each phase. The Long Island region entered Phase One on Wednesday.

But reopening restaurants may come sooner than Phase Three.

“We anticipate restaurant reopening to be moved to Phase Two, and ask all restaurants to commence on following all the reopening protocols,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said in a press release issued late yesterday afternoon to announce the availability of outdoor dining applications.

The State Liquor Authority has agreed to fast track liquor licenses to allow outdoor consumption, Aguiar said.

The county health department has authorized temporary outdoor seating, not to exceed overall maximum seating capacity, she said in the press release. See prior story.

If there is no evidence of a resurgence of the coronavirus in the region, Long Island would move into Phase Two on June 10, under current guidelines. County Executive Steve Bellone has said it is possible that the two-week period between phases may possibly be shortened, depending on the region’s progress with infections and hospitalizations.

Yesterday, state officials said they are “looking at” allowing restaurants to provide outdoor dining for their patrons, though they did not say they were thinking about moving restaurants from Phase Three to Phase Two.

“Some areas have opened up outdoor dining in advance of indoor dining,” state budget director Robert Mujica said during the governor’s daily press briefing yesterday, in response to a reporter’s question.

“We haven’t decided yet. There is a possibility. That’s something that’s still under review, Mujica said.

Riverhead Town’s temporary outdoor dining permit will be available to establishments holding a valid use permit and will expire on Dec. 31, according to the supervisor’s press release.

The permit is intended to allow restaurants to safely increase operations while maintaining appropriate social distancing protocols as mandated by the Center for Disease Control and the State Department of Health.

Applications are available on the town’s website. Completed applications may be submitted online or to the Riverhead Building Department drop box at 201 Howell Avenue. All applications will be fast tracked, the town said.

Applicants for the permit must complete and submit an online business affirmation to state. They must also complete a COVID- 19 reopening safety plan, which must be retained on premises and presented to health or safety inspectors upon request.

A fire inspection is also required before the permit will be issued, according to the town press release.

Town officials have been working with local restaurants, the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and Riverhead BID to develop the outdoor dining permit program and rolled out plans for it this week.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.