Downtown restaurants will soon be able to get a helping hand from the Riverhead BID Riverhead Business Improvement District to buy equipment and make improvements that will make outdoor dining more feasible as cold weather sets in.

Restaurants are still operating under 50% indoor capacity limits established by the governor’s executive order in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The town board at Thursday’s work session consented to a proposal by the Riverhead BID Management Association to use $30,000 in surplus BID funds to assist downtown eateries with matching grants and marketing.

The grants would pay half a restaurant’s cost of items such as tents, heaters, propane tanks, lighting, outdoor furniture and the like purchased after Oct. 1, BIDMA executive director Kristy Verity told town board members Thursday.

The BIDMA would allocate $20,000 of its current surplus to grant assistance for equipment and improvements and $10,000 for marketing, Verity said, adding the marketing effort would be for downtown as a whole with the goal of bringing traffic downtown.

The downtown business are “trying to recoup now for what what they lost in the spring,” Verity said. “Our goal is to help them without incurring further costs for the materials that they need to extend the season.”

“I know being a businessman the winter months are going to be the hardest for food and beverage going forward,” said Councilman Frank Beyrodt, whose family has a restaurant at a Riverehad golf course, Stonewall’s at Cherry Creek. “We’ve already been behind the curve to this point and going into some really serious weather maybe. So I think it’s great idea,” Beyrodt said.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio expressed concern that the grant funds should be allocated equitably.

“I just want to make sure it’s a fair and equitable process for all the business owners downtown that pay the taxes into the business improvement district,” Giglio said.

The Business Improvement District is a special tax district that encompasses Riverhead’s downtown business district. Property owners within the BID pay a tax to the district. The town board is the BID’s governing body. The Riverhead BID Management Association is a nonprofit corporation formed to advance the interests of the businesses within the BID. The BID enters into an agreement with the BIDMA each year under which the BID funds activities and events sponsored by the BIDMA — events such as Alive on 25 and the holiday bonfire and improvement projects such as lighting and signage.

Giglio also suggested the town board consider waiving tent application fees for any downtown restaurants who want to erect tents for outdoor dining.

“Just have the tents put up so that the fire marshal can just run through all the tents in the same day,” Giglio said, “rather than sending him back and forth to businesses.”

Councilman Tim Hubbard said the BIDMA’s effort were sure to help downtown businesses. “I appreciate what you guys are putting together for this,” Hubbard said.

The New York State Restaurant Association continues to press the governor’s office to increase capacity for indoor dining at restaurants, the organization said.

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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.