Dinner and a Cocktail in Asbury Park Streets

By DON STINE and ED SALVAS

At the Headliner in Neptune it will be breakfast, bingo and beverages beginning at 8 a.m. Mon., June 15. In Asbury Park don’t be surprised if you see patrons sitting at tables in some streets while they enjoy dinner and a cocktail.

Business owners along with area officials are displaying their creativity as they prepare for outdoor dining which begins June 15 after a three-month shutdown due to the coronavirus.

Asbury Park officials were expected to approve the closing of some city streets to allow for pedestrian walkways so businesses could set up tables for outside dining. The vote was taking place at press time.

Mayor John Moor said the City Council will be discussing which streets to close and on what days. He said one of the biggest concerns is safety and the accessibility of first responders in the event of a fire or accident.

“We’ll be talking about everything from A to Z,” he said. (NOTE: Wednesday evening, the Asbury Park City Council voted to allow indoor dining to resume on Mon. June 15; read the story here.)

He said because there are residential units on the upper floors on Cookman Avenue with restaurants and retail on the ground floor, plans for how to respond in an emergency will be discussed.

Garbage pick up and recycling also have to be accommodated.

Asbury Biergarten and Festhall General Manager Nick Falco said they are preparing to open the week of June 15, with outdoor service on the roof top only.

The outside will be used as a waiting area and baby strollers will not be allowed inside.

Falco said the restaurant has already received hundreds of emails, calls and texts online seeking reservations for opening week. He said requests will be handled first manually before online reservations.

He also said there will be a limited menu with 15 items offered and a limited beer selection as well.

“We don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot, we don’t know what to expect.”

Falco said he met with the health department on Monday to discuss guidelines.

He said a handul of staff will be back and will be given the option of whether they are comfortable returning to the restaurant.

“If they live with an elderly person they may not want to come back, I will give them the option,” he said.

Staff will also be checked when they come to work each day for temperature and possible symptoms.

If  they show any sign of Covid-19 they will be sent home. They also have to wear masks and gloves.

At Taka preparations are underway but they are waiting for specific guidelines from the city before finalizing plans.

According to host Christopher Finer, since beginning take out at the restaurant they “have been busier than ever.”

He said they will be setting up the existing outdoor area on their patio and possibly be able to serve in the street.

“We are going to open, it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when,” he said. “It’s a learning curve.”

At the Asbury Ale House Manager Nicole Panasuk said they will be having their regular outside seating, with tables six feet apart.

“We are sanitizing everything and hoping the weather will stay nice,” she said. “We heard the city will allow the use of street Thursday to Sunday Which will be huge.”

They are working on procedures and protocols this week to make sure they create a safe environment for workers and customers and will be providing masks, gloves and sanitizer.

Michael Simko, owner of Simko’s Grill at 1311 Route 35 in Neptune, said that he will be able to have tables on his open-air deck, on some adjacent sidewalks, and under a tent set up on a small area of the parking lot. The restaurant will be open seven days a week but will close at 9 p.m.

Simko said that Neptune officials have been very helpful in working out problems and that he has received calls from Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta and Mayor Robert Lane Jr.  He said he has also submitted the proper applications to the ABC to allow alcohol to be served outside.

But, overall, he said he will deal with the situation the best he can right now.

“I think the whole thing is stupid and eventually we need to be able to seat people in our indoor restaurant (which seats about 250 people). What do you do if it rains three days in a row? And people are not going to want to sit outside if it is extremely hot,” he said.

Gadaleta said that Neptune began the process of planning for outdoor dining about three weeks ago when officials first heard about it. He estimates there are probably 20 or more restaurants in the township, including Ocean Grove.

“We have a whole outdoor dining and sales policy in place and it’s on our website. We are also offering a free application process. So, yes, we are moving outdoor dining forward,” he said.

Gadaleta said that any business offering outdoor dining or retail sales, whether they have done it in the past or not, has to submit a plan and apply for a permit.

“And we are trying to make this process as easy as possible,” he said.

He said that smaller restaurants, like ones in Ocean Grove, are being allowed to increase their outdoor dining spaces in front of their business or along the curbside.  He said some are also being allowed to place seating on neighboring properties if permitted by the property owner. In other cases, the solution is pretty easy, the dining room at the Majestic Hotel, 19 Main Avenue, is simply not going to open this year.

There has also been some talk about closing down a portion of Main Avenue in Ocean Grove during the evenings on weekends to allow for more outdoor dining.

Gadaleta said he is optimistic that the state will allow indoor dining in the near future.

“I think in the upcoming weeks they will allow indoor seating, maybe by the end of June.  I think we will see some guidance before July 4 to allow limited seating. And we are all hoping for that,” he said.

Ocean Township Mayor Christopher Siciliano said officials there are also trying to accommodate businesses seeking to expand into outdoor dining.

Siciliano said that some restaurants, like those at Cobblestone Village, will be allowed to use parking areas in the evenings for dining.

“If a restaurant has enough area to put up a tent, we will allow that. We are cutting through the red tape regarding permitting and variances but we will still follow state and county guidelines,” he said.

“We are trying to make the process very simple and over the counter. If restaurants can be creative and show us a plan, that is not a problem. We will try to accommodate them as best we can to help optimize their outdoor area,” he said.

Siciliano sad he, too, thinks indoor dining will be back soon “but people may like the outdoor dining.”

The Headliner on Route 35 in Neptune is launching their reopening on Mon., June 15 with a breakfast and bingo opening at 8 a.m. Normal hours are expected to be 11:30 a.m. until midnight on weekdays and until 2 a.m  weekends.

Manager Tom Sueta said the Headliner has enough space to accommodate plenty of outdoor dining and is not expanding beyond their existing space. The outdoor pool at the Oasis Lounge will open on June 22.

“We are now determining how it will be set up outside and we will be following regulations,” he said.

Patrons will have their temperature taken at the door, there will be sanitizing stations, and the staff will be wearing masks and gloves.

Sueta said he hopes the night club area can be opened soon.

“Hopefully in July. Nothing of us are happy- period,” he said.

The beer garden at Johnny Mac House Of Spirits will open on Monday. Outdoor dining will also be available at Talulah’s. On June 20 Sweet Dani B on Bangs Avenue will offer outdoor dining from 1 to 4 p.m. and Sunday noon unitil 3 p.m.

The Starving Artist in Ocean Grove will offer outdoor dining June 15.

Ross Blanco, owner of America’s Cup Coffee and Tea, Asbury Park plans to have three or four table outside as he has each year for the 14 yeas he’s been in business in downtown Asbury Park.

“It will almost be like normal,” Blanco said, “But I don’t understand why we can’t have people inside, the numbers are so low.”

Blanco said that he stayed open during the lockdown and business was off about 50 percent. but he said it was mostly because people were not coming out.

In Bradley Beach,   Anthony Pagano, owner of Pagano’s Uva, commented, “It’s good to get started again, it will be helpful to the bottom line.”

Pagano’s Uva already has outdoor dining and Pagano said they will have seating for 25 to 30 people at tables on Main Street and around the corner on McCabe Avenue. But the 140 seats inside Uva will remain off limits. And that’s where the money is. Pagano said many beautiful, sunny days have been lost by the forced closing.

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