File photo: Peter Blasl

Food and retail shops will become — technically — the main attractions at the Long Island Aquarium, where the tanks and exhibits will be offered as something for members and paying guests to enjoy on their way to the aquarium’s outdoor dining areas and outdoor retail shops.

The aquarium will open its doors to members beginning Wednesday. It will be open to members only on Wednesday and Thursday and after that to members and paying guests. Reservations are required.

Visitors will be able to walk through the aquarium on their way to its outdoor dining and retail shops. They will also be able to enjoy the outdoor habitats including the penguin, sea lion, river otter exhibits and more, the aquarium in a press release this afternoon announcing the partial reopening.

The aquarium has implemented new hours so that it can control and limit guest capacity, according to the press release. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., then close for cleaning and disinfecting from 1 to 1:30 p.m., and then open again from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.

In addition to reduced guest capacity and required reservations, all adult guests must wear a face mask, with the only exception being while seated at their dining table, the aquarium said.

All guests must reserve their time online here.

The aquarium can’t fully reopen until the Long Island region enters Phase Four of the New York Forward reopening plan.

The Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat is now running with two-hour tours on the Peconic River. Kayak and canoe rentals are available at the affiliated Long Island Canoe-Kayak Rentals business, according to the press release.

Outdoor dining is also currently available at the Seaside Grill located behind the aquarium, on the riverfront.

Since the state-mandated closure on March 16, the aquarium has been unable to host daily visitors, school groups and public events such as Easter and Mother’s Day brunches, as well as private events like corporate retreats, weddings and proms.

“These sources of revenue were crucial to the aquarium’s annual finances,” the organization said in the press release.

“During the shutdown, teams of essential workers cared for their thousands of animals, each with critical daily needs, including proper dietary requirements, veterinary, medications, enrichment, habitat maintenance and maintaining life support systems.”

Additionally, the aquarium continues to help support the New York Marine Rescue Center, located in the aquarium facility. The rescue center currently houses 30 endangered sea turtles and several seals all who have been brought to the facility for urgent and prolonged care, the release said. The aquarium has assisted the N.Y. Marine Rescue Center (formerly known as the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation) for 20 years.

While closed to public visitors, the aquarium fell deeper into economic uncertainty and mounting debt. Even slowly reopening with limited capacity, the aquarium will face new challenges in running its operations, the organization said in the press release.

The aquarium launched a GoFundMe campaign, which is currently at 1/10 of its goal. Donations will help with the approximately $25,000 per week animal care expenses incurred during the state-mandated shut down, the aquarium said. The crowd-funding page can be found here: gf.me/u/xrxtsd.

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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.