By Michael J. Billoni
Beach House Restaurant owner Mike Mongan is happy New York state announced that restaurants can increase seating capacity to 75% beginning March 19, but he wishes the starting date was two days earlier on St. Patrick’s Day, which is his busiest day of the year.
“I could use 100% capacity on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Mongan, who has owned the popular East River Road restaurant since 1984. “Why they chose the 19th and not the 17th I do not know, but there have been a lot of decisions from New York state that have not made sense.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday announced restaurants outside of New York City, which have been operating at 50% capacity, can now move to 75% capacity starting March 19.
A press release stated, “The data has shown restaurants can operate safely and in accordance with strict health protocols at 75% capacity. New York City restaurant capacity will remain at 35% capacity.”
The Beach House has a capacity of only 50 people, and with Erie County restaurants shut down for most of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mongan has relied on takeout for more than 75% of his business last year. “We are now operating at 50% seating and I cannot complain,” he said. “Business has been going good because our customers are loyal and supportive. Takeout business, especially our Friday fish frys, have been tremendous this past year, and thank God for that. We really appreciate the support of our customers.”
Mongan plans to call the Erie County Health Department for specifics of the 75% seating capacity ruling because he currently has seven tables spaced 6 feet apart in his small dining room. Other than the change in capacity, all other safety protocols remain in place, according to the state Health Department.
“I am happy to hear about 75% because I believe 100% is right around the corner,” Mongan said.
Speaking on a conference call, Cuomo said, “The numbers are down. When the numbers are down, we adjust the economic reopening valve. Connecticut is going to 100% restaurant capacity on March 19. Massachusetts went to 100% restaurant capacity on March 1. New York on March 19, same day Connecticut goes to 100, our restaurants outside of New York City, which have been at 50%, will now go to 75%. That is everywhere outside of New York City. “
“That is all very good news,” Cuomo said. “It’s not just good news for the restaurant owners. Remember you have a lot of staff at restaurants, there are a lot of jobs, there are a lot of suppliers, so we’ll go to 75%. We also think that 75% is what the consumer is ready for.
Mongan’s concern right now is preparing his kitchen and staff for St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday and serving his family’s famous corned beef and cabbage for lunch ($8.95 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and dinner ($14.95 after 2 p.m.). A platter of corned beef, Irish potatoes, baby carrots, cabbage and a dinner roll will be served on Wednesday and Thursday and the restaurant’s fish fry dinners will be sold only on Thursday and Friday of next week. He recommends calling to pre-order lunch and dinner.
Mongan said the reason customers come from all over for the Beach House’s corned beef and cabbage is the recipe handed down to him from his late mother, Joyce. “Everything is made from scratch, and the person who tutored me on this was my mother,” he said. “The secret for our dinners is the broth from cooking the corned beef. We use it to cook the vegetables and Irish potatoes.”
Some information for this report was compiled from news releases from the office of New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo.