Shelton gets partially back to business

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — The beautiful weather only heightened the anticipation for local restaurants taking advantage of the outdoor dining option now made available by the state.

“It feels awesome,” said Stormy’s Bull and Barley owner Mike Recchia as he welcomed back customers Wednesday for onsite dining for the first time in weeks.

Recchia, who reopened Stormy’s Bull and Barley at 350 Bridgeport Ave. earlier this year, had been offering takeout during the shutdown but had been preparing for the day he could once again welcome customers at his establishment.

“We have had a good amount of people … wish it had been more, but this is just the beginning of all this, and it is new to people,” said Recchia.

Recchia has outdoor seating for 60 people total, with all the necessary social distancing requirements in place and personal protection equipment on site.

Like so many of his fellow restaurant owners, Recchia has turned to social media to let everyone know he is open for sit-down business, albeit just outdoor.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Dan Camporeale, owner of Matto Wine Bar, 389 Bridgeport Ave. “It’s great to see people and interact, but we wish it was under better circumstances.”

Camporeale said the restaurant’s outdoor seating capacity has not changed. The tables have only been spread out farther to meet state reopening regulations. He said the present restrictions bring with them thousands in extra costs, but he has no plans to pass it on the customer.

"I understand why we are getting calls asking if there will be a Covid charge,” said Camporeale. “A lot of places are doing that because of high costs of goods and added costs of PPE. But it’s something we are going to have to live with, and it’s not fair to pass it along to our guests.

“It’s just a cost of doing business,” added Camporeale, “and we hope people appreciate what it takes to give them the best and safest service possible. It’s a new world for all of us, and we need to take care of each other.”

Camporeale said Matto has enjoyed a steady flow of anxious guests Wednesday.

"I hope we can get a good pace of guests and keep it going,” said Camporeale. “We could use all the support we can. We are still doing steady takeout and hope to maintain that as well. We are here to serve however we can.”

So far, Planning and Zoning Administrator Alex Rossetti said the department has signed off on eight outdoor dining applications. Also receiving outdoor dining approvals are Breeze Latin Fusion, JC’s Sports Bar, Maria’s Restaurant, Porky’s, Tacomida and Wellington’s.

Rossetti said restaurants with existing patio space are required to fill out a no-fee application with the Planning and Zoning Department and receive approval from the fire marshal’s office and the Naugatuck Valley Health District.

Along with restaurants, Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan also allowed for offices and other “non-essential” businesses to open their doors once again.

It was a welcome return to some sense of normalcy for those at Marks of Design, a high-end jewelry designer in the Big Y plaza at 389 Bridgeport Ave., according to store jewelry consultant Gabriela Lopez.

Lopez said the business remained in operation on a pick-up basis and through Facebook auctions.

“It was surreal,” said Lopez about reopening the doors Wednesday, weeks after being forced to shut down. “Before we got going today, we had to sit down, in a group huddle, and ready ourselves.

“When someone comes in and says they are engaged, we can’t hug them anymore … we can’t give them a kiss. Buying jewelry is so personal. But we have steps to take now. This is the new normal,” added Lopez.

For the store employees, masks and gloves are part of the routine. Lopez said they have extra gloves and masks on hand for customers, as well as plenty of hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes since the jewelry business, unlike other retail operations, can involve having to touch other people.

“It was better than expected,” said Lopez about the store traffic Wednesday.

She said they did not think they would have any customers, but in the end, six people came in and four others called for pickup. Lopez said they have also set up multiple appointments each day for the next few days.