More economic signs of life were evident in Wilton on Wednesday, as several businesses that were allowed to open under Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan welcomed customers and clients. Others were more tentative and those that are able to are providing both COVID-19 modified as well as in-person experiences.
Demetri Papanikolaou is one business owner who’s being cautious with how he kicks off Phase 2. As the owner of Orem’s Diner, he has already made accommodations for reopening under Phase 1, by putting up a tent over a large section of the Orem’s parking lot and setting up about a dozen tables underneath for outside dining. Now, before he offers customers the opportunity to eat inside the restaurant, Papanikolaou is making sure it’s done safely–even beyond what’s required by the state.
He’s having polycarbonate partitions installed in-between each of the booths that ring the inside of the restaurant. “The rule is 60 inches off the floor, which is this high,” he says, holding his hand out to illustrate. “But I want to go the extra, just to make it really safe,” he adds, lifting his hand several inches higher.
But changes mean complications. “We were supposed to be getting them installed Thursday. But it’s really hard to find polycarbonate, which is what is fire-safe and legal. All this stuff that we’re doing is not cheap, you know, it’s this huge expense that I would normally never have to make,” he says.
“We’re doing our due diligence to be as safe as possible. I don’t want to rush–I want to be safe, I want my people to be safe. If it takes another few days or another week or whatever. I’d love to be open inside now, but this weekend, Father’s Day, is the goal,” Papanikolaou says.
Thankfully, like other Wilton restaurant owners have reported, customers have been supportive, embracing the outside dining experience, especially with the nicer weather.
“The tent has been working out very well. So that’s going to keep going, even when we open inside,” Papanikolaou says.
For the Little Pub, Phase 2 means a complete return to table service, as the South Wilton eatery opted not to open an area for customers to eat outside in Phase 1. Manager Devin O’Keeffe showed off Little Pub’s modified dining area, noting that there’s space for 38 people to eat–50% of the restaurant’s capacity.
“We have our first reservation for 2 p.m. today,” he said, adding that they’re planning on being open seven days a week until 8 p.m.–an hour earlier than what they’re permitted under Phase 2 rules. “That’s just to see how it goes,” O’Keeffe added, reflecting the gradual approach many businesses are taking after seeing how abruptly things can change–either because Gov. Lamont may switch up regulations or the health crisis can change things up suddenly again. Little Pub still plans on maintaining curbside and take-out services, which have been brisk.
Other eateries are even more cautious and are holding back on inside seating completely. Dunkin Donuts is still only offering take-out, a directive coming from corporate management.
Nail salons don’t have the luxury of choosing inside or outside service. But the plentiful number of salons in Wilton were back in operation on day one of Phase 2. Also returning?Nail salon clients, as every seat at regulation-distanced stations equipped with plexiglass dividers, was filled at Coco Nails.
Health and fitness studios are making adjustments as well. The Pilates Advantage is limiting the number of students per class at the studio, and has implemented a rigorous cleaning protocol. Instructors will wear masks, face shields and gloves, while clients will be required to wear masks unless a 12-ft. distance can be maintained. Owner Mary Beth Young is also continuing to offer classes online for clients who aren’t yet comfortable with in-person instruction.