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New York's New Normal: Local restaurants anticipate changes for reopening

CBS6 spoke with the owners of Hamlet and Ghost in Saratoga Springs and Little Pecks in Troy what their "new normal" will look like. (WRGB)
CBS6 spoke with the owners of Hamlet and Ghost in Saratoga Springs and Little Pecks in Troy what their "new normal" will look like. (WRGB)
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CAPITAL REGION NY (WRGB) - Restaurants across the state are anxiously awaiting the day when they can reopen to customers, and many owners have started thinking about how their operations will change.

CBS6 spoke with the owners of Hamlet and Ghost in Saratoga Springs and Little Pecks in Troy what their "new normal" will look like.

"Just like everybody else, it's so many questions and not a lot of answers...and you just try to get by day to day." Brendan Dillon, owner of Hamlet and Ghost says of the shutdown. "You just gotta plan for the worst and hope for the best!"

MORE: "Bar Rescue" host Jon Taffer sees grim consequences for industry from coronavirus

Like many, Hamlet and Ghost in Saratoga Springs stays connected to customers through take out. They've even mixed up their signature cocktails to-go.

As they wait for guidance on reopening, Dillon says he's thought a lot about what the "new norm" will look like.

Dillon's been studying restaurants and cocktail bars in other countries that are ahead of New York's curve. He anticipates offering more sanitizer, switching to more disposable products like paper menus, and cracking down on sick staff members or even guests.

But mostly, he's planning for social distancing and spacing out the tables, depending on the state's occupancy limits and spacing guidelines. The online reservation system is working on monitoring capacity.

MORE: Service workers survive on "virtual tips" during coronavirus restaurant shutdown

Dillon says he may even switch to reservations-only for seats at the bar.

"We'll put groups in 2, 2, and 2 down the bar and space them out by 6 feet or whatever the guideline winds up being." Dillon said.

Dillon plans to continue their current takeout routine in the back dining room of Hamlet and Ghost, because he believes the transition will be slow.

"We don't want a situation where that person who's nervous about a social interaction has to come in through a busy bar, or in the door and walk through a crowd, or come inside even if they don't want to, we'll try to cater to those people and make sure they have a safe spot to pick up." Dillon said.

Meanwhile in Troy, the new takeout routine has flipped a switch in Vic Christopher's business model. He owns five bars and restaurants part of Clark House Hospitality - Lucas Confectionery, Pecks Arcade, Little Pecks, Tavern Bar, and The Bradley.

MORE: Cuomo: Entertainment, education will wait longest to open, Upstate likely before Downstate

He built "The Grocery" to make food and basic ingredients easily accessible for people in downtown Troy.

"Downtown Troy doesn't have a grocery store, and we have a lot of people who live within walking distance." Christopher said.

The biggest change is that he plans to move away from sit-down service.

"Fast casual and counter service is probably the way you could move forward in the restaurant business." Christopher said. "It would be impossible to offer full service if people are required to wear masks, because you cant eat with a mask on."

Christopher plans to combine his different properties into one open-concept dining experience.

ALSO: Our full interview with "Bar Rescue" Host Jon Taffer about COVID-19 and the Bar Business

"We're blessed to have a lot of space here, we have 15,000 square feet, so for us the experience will become several order counters within the facility." Christopher said. "People can order something from Little Pecks or maybe a wine and cheese board from Lucas Confectionery, but they will function more like order counters. And people will take their meal and we'll have a different seating arrangement over the two stories of the building we're occupying here and space people out accordingly."

He's already started construction to design a new layout and offer more room for spread out tables.

Both Dillon and Christopher believe it could be a while before restaurants return to their old way of service, possibly until a vaccine is created. Christopher says it's all about adapting and creating a "new normal."

"Now more than ever restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, business owners need to come up with new ways to serve their customers." he said.

ALSO: Reopening NY: Cuomo outlines criteria, phases for reopening amid pandemic

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Both owners encourage you to continue to support your local restaurants.

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