Concessions stands at the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk have begun to reopen, but New Yorkers visiting the shoreline will find fewer restaurants than usual.
Rockaway Beach Club, which oversees the food vendors at Beach 86th, 97th, and 106th Streets, has decided to limit the number of concessions stands as a precaution against coronavirus, according to local restaurateurs. The stands— whose seating areas often hosted dance parties and concerts in summers past— will now employ a takeout model.
Caracas, a Venezuelan eatery and bar, did a soft reopening earlier this week, without outdoor seating. Where customers used to be able to approach the front counter to watch arepas being made, they must now order outside, from behind a partition. A sign tells them to wear a mask and practice social distancing, and forbids alcohol from being purchased without a food order.
Low Tide Bar, which will again share the 97th Street concession area with fish-and-chips stand High 97 and the juice stand La Fruiteria, is aiming for a July 1 opening. The burger shack Rippers is also planning to reopen July 1. That’s also when Rockaway and other city beaches, after a month of delay and uncertainty, will add lifeguards and officially reopen for swimming.
It is a stressful time for concession stand owners as they adapt to new regulations while working to maintain a smooth customer experience.
“You’re basically opening a different restaurant,” said Andrew Field, the owner of Low Tide Bar and the nearby Tacoway Beach.
For Field, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to keep up a profitable “churn and burn” rhythm in a socially-distanced kitchen. “It’s starting to get like a jigsaw puzzle inside of your brain,” he joked.
Social distancing in tight New York kitchens means a smaller staff. But when you have a long line of people waiting for your signature fish taco, he asked, how do you produce the same product at the same speed without jacking up the price?
“We’ll figure it out,” he assured Bedford + Bowery.
Field admitted that the boardwalk location does make take-out logistics a little easier than restaurants in the city. “We’re in front of the biggest patio in New York City,” he said. “We can just grab some food and go out onto the sand.”