Wilton venues go slow on Phase 3 reopenings
WILTON — Connecticut is starting Phase 3 of reopening following shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic this week.
But while restaurants may be enjoying more capacity to serve more customers, other venues in Wilton are being more cautious.
Under Phase 3, indoor performing arts venues can open up to 50-percent capacity, and libraries are allowed to go to 75-percent capacity, up from 50 percent.
Even though Rolling Hills Country Club on Hurlbutt Street would be allowed to hold events for up to 100 people under Phase 3, the private club has no plans to do so right now.
“We’re being incredibly cautious and have moved all our 2020 events to 2021,” said Hilary Perettine, head of membership and banquet sales.
Celebratory events such as weddings, she said, would be too difficult for the club to monitor. “We do not want to risk infecting the health of any employee or club member. It’s not worth it to try to force it for trickles of money,” she said.
She said it would be risky if guests showed up from an unquarantined state and weren’t following quarantine rules. Guests who imbibed too much alcohol, got belligerent, or refused to wear masks, would also present problems. “We don’t want to police people who aren’t members,” she said.
The club has had no problem running its outdoor golf and tennis programs this year. It even opened its swimming pool during summer, limiting use time to 25 minutes and keeping capacity lower than what is allowed by the state. As the weather grows colder, the club will offer paddle tennis programs.
Small indoor events for club members have been allowed, with the head count maximum as dictated by the state.
“Membership at the club is booming,” said Perettine, noting waiting lists to play golf and tennis.
The club’s membership is at full capacity, according to Perettine.
Membership increased substantially since the beginning of the pandemic in March when New Yorkers started to move to Wilton and Fairfield County in droves to escape the city. “Before people even closed on their houses, they were joining the country club,” she said.
Trackside Teen Center is more optimistic about holding events, which it has been doing for several months.
“We stayed open over the summer and ran some programs,” said Cindy Moser, the teen center’s director. Most of those took place outdoors, she said.
“As we go to Phase 3, we will continue to offer space,” she said. “I do think it will offer us the opportunity to have a small- to medium-size party.” Moser has talked with parents regarding children’s birthday parties in October and November.
Although Phase 3 would allow more, Trackside’s two large rooms won’t go over 75 people. “Seventy-five is what we are comfortable with,” Moser said, to comply with social distancing and allow people to sit comfortably at a table for a meal.
Wilton Library is also not opening to maximum capacity.
It has just begun a controlled “Express Service” which provides limited public access to the library building. There are also no plans to hold performances in the Brubeck Room, where live events are normally held.
For the library’s “Express Service,” the building is open to patrons by appointment only for 20-minute intervals. The Children’s Library, Teen Services and adult internet computers are also available only by appointment. The library is also continuing its Drive-Thru Window service.
“We have been pleased and encouraged by the positive response to our programs, so we plan to continue our robust programming virtually,” said Janet Crystal, the library’s marketing communications manager.
For now, she said, the library has been able to reach more people virtually for programs like its scholarly lectures and book talks, than if library staff had to constrain patrons by spacing them out across a room.
The Wilton Historical Society has a banner across its webpage saying, “The Wilton Historical Society Museum is currently closed to visitors.”
Like Wilton library, it also has had success running virtual programs and exhibitions during this time.
It’s 35th annual American Artisan Show, a popular event which offers crafts and furniture for sale, will be held exclusively online this year from Nov. 5 through Dec. 20.
While the society is not holding indoor events, it is allowing outdoor events on its grounds, such as the weekly Farmers Market, and Kiwanis Pumpkin Patch.
Jeannette Ross contributed to this story.