Downtown: Aroma of food. Tinkle of glasses and hum of conversation. Welcome to phase two


Not a lot of tables at Cantina, but space in the park across the street.

Along Pelham’s 5th Avenue sidewalk, the tangy aroma of Thai food. Or it’s the creamy smell of alfredo sauce or the spice of fajitas. Tinkling utensils. Laughter and the hum of conversation.

That will be downtown Pelham on Tuesday. 

Phase two of the reopening rules permit restaurants to serve food in outdoor spaces with social-distance restrictions observed. All tables need to be at least six feet from any other table, seat, patron or pedestrian thoroughfare or corridor, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

Pelham’s local restaurants are eager to see their customers back, but it won’t be easy to pull off. There is limited sidewalk space in Pelham, as well as the need to abide the social distancing rules. After three months of quarantine, their customers are probably eager to eat out. Take away and delivery is convenient, but it’s not the same as being in the environment of a restaurant. 

Sergio’s Restaurant, located at 503 Fifth Avenue, is a staple for Italian cuisine in Pelham. Management has an exciting plan to reopen for their customers.“We have a little parking lot in the back, which we are going to use for outdoor seating,” said manager Alban Gashi. “It is going to fit about 10 tables, six-feet apart from each table. I believe at a minimum we will have four to five people per table,” 

“At first, we are going to do first-come, first-serve for outdoor dining, but maybe transition into the reservations depending on the demand and how it goes.” he said. “We know everybody is itching to go out and want to go and eat out at a restaurant.”

This new normal of outdoor dining that is seating socially distant will be a learning process for most businesses, particularly because of the one thing they can’t control—the weather.

“Outdoor seating will have to go along with the weather,” said Gashi. “If it is raining, we cannot seat people outside. We don’t have a tent. We are just using umbrellas, so it wouldn’t be able to cover everybody up while raining. We will close outdoor during rainy days and just continue with pick-up and delivery.”

“There is really no change for us,” Clay Bushong, co-owner of Cantina Lobos, the Mexican restaurant located at 217 Wolfs Lane, said of phase two. “Our outdoor seating is severely limited in the first place because our sidewalk is so small. Since we are using the garage door (to deal with orders), which used to be two tables before, we will just continue takeout and delivery service.”

Cantina Lobos has done well with their offerings during the pandemic. Bushong brought back 70% to 75% of his staff to help with takeout and deliveries. He has implemented lots of creative drinks that are popular. 

Across the street from Cantina Lobos is Pelham’s Wolf Lane Park, which may give the restaurant some informal seating. “Cantina Lobos donated picnic tables to the park across the street,” said Bushong. “Although we are not doing service, people can get their food and eat and drink across the street at the picnic tables.”

“Villagio’s Restaurant and Cantina are planning on donating more picnic tables for across the street,” he said. “I also have been talking to the mayor and trustees that are coming up with great plans on how to use some of the parking lots in Pelham for restaurant seating but they have not officially announced it yet.”

Bangkok City, at 101 Fifth Avenue, has also been doing good sales with takeout service. Toon, a member of the staff who has worked at the restaurant for seven years, hopes to open outdoor seating as soon as possible. But before that, the restaurant needs approval from the village.

“We have to pay for a permit every single year but right now, we did not get anything from the town yet,” Toon said. “If the town allows us to offer outdoor seating, then we will after we pay for the permit. If we don’t have to wait for the permit, then we will open up. It all depends.”

As Pelham restaurants get ready for opening and continue with their takeout and delivery service, they say they are thankful for the support from the Pelham community. 

“The consistency of the people is unbelievable,” said Gashi. “Everybody in this town is awesome. They really are so supportive, and they really do help during pandemics and we are very grateful for them.”

“I don’t want to say I was surprised, but I was surprised at how overwhelming the support of the people in town was for all of the restaurants,” said Bushong. “We have been honored to be a place that stayed open, and this was all due to the community because they are taking care of us so well.”