Brookhaven offered restaurants a free permit to install tents in parking spaces to seat patrons outside as pandemic distancing, but some local spots seem to have their own plans.

No restaurant had applied for the temporary outdoor restaurant operations permit, intended to serve as a catalyst for economic activity for Brookhaven, as of May 11, said Mayor John Ernst. The permit was created by Ernst in an April 27 executive order.

But several restaurants are moving patrons outside in their own ways.

Verde Taqueria did not set up tents, but instead chose to place three picnic tables spaced far apart outside its location at 1426 Dresden Drive in Brookhaven Village, said Manuel Gonzalez, general manager of the restaurant. The spacing creates social distancing and keeps customers outside of the restaurant. Gonzalez said he was not aware of the city’s new permit program.

Only a limited number of customers can dine outside Verde. They have been practicing social distancing.

“We just got parts of our parking lot blocked off. And we’re letting people order food and sit out there as they please,” Gonzalez said. “We weren’t ready to have them come inside just yet.”

Cones help block the tables and customers off from vehicles. Staff sanitizes the seating and customers can dump their trash straight into garbage cans also set up outside. The restaurant’s station for to-go orders also is outside and separated from the picnic tables.

“A lot of our regulars came out for Mother’s Day and had their meal outside,” Gonzalez said.

Verde has a patio but has been using it as a place for patrons to pick up to-go orders.

Verde Taqueria is partly using its patio space as a to-go order pickup station, while offering outdoor seating at picnic tables. At left, signs direct customers where to go. At right, a masked worker is ready on the patio to hand out orders. (Special)

Avellino’s, a popular pizzeria at 1328 Windsor Parkway, also put out picnic tables.

“We are just putting actually patio tables outside where you can eat your to go food,” said Mitch Frohman, manager at Avellino’s.

He was aware of the city’s permit program. The restaurant has not announced a date to reopen to diners.

Haven Restaurant at 1411 Dresden Drive announced on its Facebook page that its patio was undergoing renovations, with a roof covering the entire area.

“As we make plans for our reopening and the ‘new normal,’ we know that patio dining will be preferred by many, and now you can look forward to a covered patio at Haven,” the restaurant said on Facebook, tagging the post with #socialdistancing and #coronalife.

A restaurant that fails to apply for the new outdoor dining permit and installs tents on its own technically could be cited. But, said city spokesperson Burke Brennan, a restaurant would likely just get a warning. But if the business goes beyond what the permit allows, or creates public safety or public health risks, it can expect a citation.

Ernst said he came up with the idea for the temporary permit — which got some national press attention — after reading about medical studies.

I had seen a lot of studies that show that the virus doesn’t spread well outdoors and in sunlight. It was the same thing with Spanish flu in 1918. A lot of stuff moved outdoors,” he said.

“While I was not in favor of opening when we did, this makes Brookhaven have not only the best restaurants – they are – but the safest,” Ernst said.

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