Connecticut Restaurants Push For Expanded Capacity Limits
Tony D’Elia owns San Marino Ristorante Italiano and La Bella Vista in Waterbury. One’s a restaurant, one’s a banquet hall. And he's among the many restaurant owners pushing to increase the capacity of indoor and outdoor dining in the state.
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The hall holds 600 to 700 customers, but under current pandemic state guidelines, indoor private events -- like ones held at a banquet hall -- are capped at 25 people. Outdoor events are limited to 100, and restaurants can operate at 50% capacity.
“As far as the banquet hall, that toll is pretty much -- we’ve lost just about 90% of our business,” D’Elia says, “because we can’t really do anything inside. We’re built for 600 to 700 people, we’re only allowed 25, so we can’t even open the door for 25 people.”
The federal Paycheck Protection Program was passed to help businesses weather the pandemic. D’Elia got $177,000 from the program, but the money was hard to use as customers canceled events and he had little need to employ workers without them.
“The PPP is great and it’s a big support,” D’Elia said, standing outside his restaurant. “It’d be better if we could earn our own keep and open up further, especially in the banquet facilities.”
Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said he’s pushing for the state to expand gathering capacities and prove that restaurants can host events safely.
“Maybe the next move is 150 [people] outside and 50 inside. And let’s start there,” Dolch said.
Gov. Ned Lamont postponed Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan earlier this month to avoid surges in coronavirus cases and the possibility of another shutdown.