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Outdoor dining in North Country restaurants permitted starting Thursday

This group of restaurants and bars on Main Street, Saranac Lake, is part of where the village board wanted to allow outdoor eating on the sidewalk starting Memorial Day weekend, but was not allowed to by the state. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that outdoor dining at restaurants will be permitted in Phase 2 of reopening the economy.

Restaurants in the seven regions that have already entered Phase 2 — Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier and Western New York — can start to reopen for outdoor dining beginning Thursday.

Outdoor tables must be spaced 6 feet apart, all staff must wear face coverings, and customers must also wear face coverings when not seated.

Until now, restaurants and bars have only been able to offer take-out services for food and drinks since in-restaurant service was prohibited starting the evening of March 16. Dine-in and on-premise dining and bar service is part of Phase 3 of the state’s reopening.

The Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees briefly proposed allowing outdoor dining on certain downtown sidewalks starting on Memorial Day weekend, but they withdrew that plan after learning it was not allowed under state rules.

The restrictions were part of the governor’s lockdown mandates to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus. He declared a state of emergency on March 7, and the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11.

As of Wednesday, more than 374,000 people had tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 24,000 people have died of the disease in New York this spring, according to the state Department of Health.

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