WILTON — If they can get a temporary permit from the town, Wilton restaurants are gearing up for limited reopenings this Wednesday. As part of Phase 1 of Gov. Ned Lamont’s reopening plan, restaurants may open for outdoor dining only.

To reopen, restaurants must follow increased sanitation protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and to ensure for the safety of both workers and customers.

Some of the new outdoor dining protocols include new signage, hand sanitizers, tables at least six feet apart, and contact-less payment. Staff must wear masks at all times, as well as customers, except when eating.

Menus must be printed on disposable paper or presented on a chalkboard or wipeboard, utensils will come rolled or in packages, and no more ketchup pumps — single-use condiments only.

The May 20 reopening is welcome news to restaurants which the state ordered closed for inside dining in March as the pandemic started spreading across the state.

“We’re very excited for it,” said Maria Pertesis, co-owner of Cactus Rose, a popular Latin American eatery and tequila bar in Wilton Center. “It’s a big change, something we have never done before,” she said.

Her staff has put finishing touches on the restaurant’s outdoor patio in order to accommodate diners. “Customers are calling asking if Cactus Rose will be open on Wednesday, Pertesis said. “Our staff is a team, and we’re here,” she said.

The staff at Marly’s in Wilton Center held a meeting on Sunday, May 17, on their patio to discuss procedures required to open on Wednesday, including the use of paper menus. “We’re maintaining social distancing,” one of the staffers said, noting everyone was sitting six feet apart.

Matt Criscuolo, owner of Wilton Pizza, which is next door to Marly’s, also plans to reopen for outisde dining. He said he will “follow all the rules,” set down by the state, and will place outside tables accordingly to conform with social distancing requirements.

Cristina Ramirez, one of the owners of Craft 14 in Wilton River Park and its sister restaurant Bianco Rosso, plans to reopen both restaurants.

She is looking to put up tents outside to accommodate customers. “Our landlord, Kimco Realty, is allowing tents to go up. We’ll only be able to operate at half our capacity, we’ll see how things go,” she said.

In Georgetown, Milestone is planning on seating customers outdoors on a first-come, first-serve basis.

All these restaurants will continue to offer takeout and curbside delivery.

Reopening is an ongoing process, and some restaurants may not have enough outdoor space in order to reopen on May 20.

The location of Naked Greens at 239 Danbury Road, has limited parking which does not easily lend itself to outdoor dining. “We are looking into that but will most likely not be able to do it,” said Victor Melendez, its owner.

“We don’t have an outdoor patio or designated space to do so, other than putting tables on the actual parking lot, which would be dangerous and impractical. We are evaluating our options, but will most likely not open until some time in early June for takeout and delivery,” he said.

Temporary permit

Before any restaurants can open outdoors in Wilton, whether on an existing patio or a newly created outdoor eating space, they need a temporary permit issued by Town Planner Michael Wrinn.

While a number of restaurants said they plan to reopen on Wednesday, no one had applied for a temporary permit as of Tuesday morning, according to Wrinn.

“All restaurants need a temporary permit in order to operate an outdoor activity,” he told the Bulletin.

In order not to hold up restaurant operations, Wrinn said temporary permits will be issued expeditiously.

But to open outdoors, restaurants must comply with guidelines issued by the state as to social distancing and sanitation issues. The application for a temporary permit requires sign-offs from fire, health, building, police and zoning.

Tents need to be inspected to make sure they are fire retardant, are safely taking up parking spaces, and aren’t located in a travel way. “We want to see restaurants succeed but not at the expense of creating a health dilemma for everyone,” Wrinn said.

Even with a tent in place, restaurants are limited to 50 percent of the seating capacity they currently have for indoor dining.

The state’s restaurant industry, which has been devastated by loss of service the past few months, has pressured the state to allow indoor dining.

Lamont said last week if proper procedures for outside service are successful, diners might be allowed to eat inside by June 20 or earlier.

“Everything’s constantly evolving,” Wrinn said.

Visit restaurant websites for more information about the services they are providing and their hours of operation.

pgay@wiltonbulletin.com

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