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By Alex Agudelo

Outdoor dining has continued to open up around Long Island since COVID-19 restrictions have minimized indoor capacity. With the summer coming up, outdoor dining is coming back in a big way. In March, Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino and members of the Town Board announced they are waiving all fees in relation to outdoor dining. Those permit fees can range from $25 to thousands of dollars. The hope is that waiving these fees will encourage more safe dining and help restaurants remain profitable.

Saladino said town officials have “worked tirelessly since the start of the pandemic to help local businesses come back safely and effectively.” He added, “We cut the red tape, waived fees and allowed for new outdoor dining options for restaurant patrons, helping owners open safely and successfully.”

Many diners are also looking forward to eating outside in warmer temperatures. Long Island resident Amanda Henson said, “Now that the weather is nicer, I enjoy dining outside with friends.” However, Henson noted that the experience of eating outside reminded her of the change in daily life that the pandemic has caused.

With last summer’s increase in outdoor dining, investing in outdoor equipment helped many restaurants, such as Mario’s Pizzeria in Plainview, to stay open.

A manager of Mario’s Pizzeria, Peter Spanos, said the waiving the outdoor dining fees is “very appropriate, given the circumstances. I think it’s very nice of them to help deal with the situation.” He also highlighted that “they have come out with a few grants as well for using outdoor equipment.” However, Spanos said Mario’s did not receive those grants, “We didn’t make the cut, which is sad.”

The pandemic has severely affected restaurants, with many needing to close their dining rooms and some having to lay off employees. According to the Office of The New York State Comptroller, on average more than 44 percent of restaurants have used outdoor dining as a way to have more people dine out.