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Connecticut Restaurants, Venues Begin Phase 3 Of Reopening

Ali Warshavsky
Connecticut Public Radio
The interior of the Bedford Street Diner in Stamford, run by David Agostino.

Thursday marked Phase 3 of reopening in Connecticut, allowing restaurants to increase indoor dining capacity to 75% and permitting venues -- for the first time since March -- to host indoor events, like weddings, of up to 100 people. 

When we last spoke with David Agostino, he was preparing his restaurant in Stamford for Phase 2, which included indoor dining. He’s been operating at 50% capacity since then, but he hasn’t needed more space. Even though he now can let more people inside the Bedford Street Dinner, he doubts they are ready to come.

“It’s not so much the governor putting a number on it and I’m going to get 75 percent inside, it’s a whole learned behavior now that’s happened since the shutdown,” said Agostino. “There is a whole lot of fear.”

Agostino said the consumer confidence just isn’t there. And comments made by Gov. Ned Lamont in a news conference last week, which implied the governor himself still isn’t comfortable eating inside, didn’t help, he said.

“It’s all about consumer confidence, and in my opinion the leaders of the state have not instilled that in any of the consumers. They have just instilled fear,” said Agostino.

For Joanna Sherriff, the third phase means she can really get back to work as vice president of sales and marketing for the Fairfield Catering Group.

“It’s nice to be able to talk with our brides and grooms and couples about things getting better and about being able to allow 100 people,” said Sherriff.

The group owns five wedding venues, four in Connecticut. As of Thursday, they are allowed to have 100 people at indoor events, but the decision comes after a lost summer season.

“At this stage, about all of our events have been moved until next year, so it’s kind of late for our brides this year,” said Sherriff.

Sherriff said couples are more willing to plan events with the new guidance from the state. She hopes to kick off the 2021 wedding season strong in January. 

Meanwhile, Agostino said he hopes his restaurant survives to see 2021. 

“We are just trying to hang in there until there is a vaccine, or as time goes by,” said Agostino. ‘Even though we have really low numbers in Connecticut, we aren’t seeing people come back yet, that’s for sure.”

Agostino said his landlord has been generous, requesting only 50% of the rent. Otherwise, he said, his family who owns the diner couldn’t make it work.

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