FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM FEBRUARY 18, 2021 • THE QUEENS COURIER 21
Photos by Gabriele Holtermann
New York City restaurants like La Casita Mexicana in Ridgewood are now open for indoor dining at 25 percent capacity.
Limited indoor dining ‘a small start’ for Queens restaurants
BY GABRIELE HOLTERMANN
Indoor dining returned at 25 percent
capacity for restaurants in Queens and
around New York City on Friday, Feb. 12,
aft er dining establishments had to limit
their business to takeout and deliveries
in December 2020 due to an increase in
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday
also loosened the closing time restrictions
for bars and restaurants and extended
operating hours to 11 p.m. statewide
as of Feb. 14.
Hercules Kontogianais, co-owner of
Nonnas 1977 in Bayside on Bell Boulevard,
was excited about the reopening.
“It’s a start. It’s a small start, but we’ll
take it,” he said.
Th e eatery, which serves upscale pizza
square pies labeled aft er female named song
titles in a rock ‘n’ roll themed setting, has
been able to survive with delivery and takeout.
Like many in the restaurant business,
Kontogianais felt that Governor Cuomo’s
announcement to bring back indoor dining
in New York City was too short notice.
“I think it was a late start on that, even
though they pulled a little bit. We didn’t
have enough time to set everything up,”
Kontogianais said. “To get the right thing
going in order to get the right amount of
people in the store and set up the right
way, you need at least about a week.”
Indoor dining at the Bell Boulevard
location — Nonnas 1977 also has a place
in Astoria — is limited to four tables,
three four-tops, and one two-top, separated
by a display case with Nonnas memorabilia
and a table adorned with plants.
For Peter Jozwik, owner of La Casita
Mexicana, a small and cheerfully decorated
Mexican restaurant in Ridgewood, it
has been a challenging ride. Jozwik signed
the restaurant lease on March 6 in 2020,
two weeks before the city went into lockdown
because of COVID-19.
La Casita Mexicana off ers takeout, but
the revenue does not cover all the costs,
and Jozwik explained that to make ends
meet, his restaurant with three tables and
a bar needs to be open at 50 percent occupancy
minimum. To make matters worse,
the restaurant did not qualify for PPP
because his business wasn’t in operation
before Feb. 15, 2020.
“It’s unprecedented. We are barely surviving
at this point. Even with 25 percent
inside, it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Even though they were approved for a
liquor license four months ago, they are
still waiting for a document from one
city agency before they can begin selling
“Alcohol is at least 40 percent of our revenue.
Everybody wants to go out and have
a drink,” Jozwik explained. “We have been
getting more and more deliveries and
takeout, but without alcohol? You got stay
positive, but sometimes it’s just …”
David Cazares, one of his guests,
felt comfortable eating indoors again.
Following Department of Health’s
COVID-19 guidelines, he had his temperature
taken upon entering the eatery
and had to provide his name, address
and phone number for contract tracing
“It feels great. It feels normal,” the former
bartender and sommelier at Capital
Grille on Wall Street and frequent diner
The exterior of Nonnas 1977 in Bayside, which is now open for indoor dining. A thermometer for the required temperature check sits on the counter of La Casita Mexicana.