Dozens of Suffolk restaurant owners gathered outside the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge Monday to voice their need to reopen their restaurants.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that restaurants could open for outdoor seating to customers during Phase 2, starting this Wednesday.

But the restaurant owners say they need more, and the expected 25 percent allowable occupancy as the state eases itself back to normalcy after the crisis is not enough to remain functioning.

John Sarno, an owner at Drift 82 and three Village Idiot Pub locations in Patchogue, Oakdale and Lake Grove, organized the event.

“We’re all struggling and scrambling,” he told GreaterPatchogue. “Every day that we’re open, every hour, every minute matters.”

His colleagues Monday all agreed that, although places have been able to stay open during the pandemic for delivery or take-out, it just hasn’t been enough.

“Even if you have the PPP loan, we still can’t have all our employees work because of restrictions and guidelines,” Sarno said.

While Patchogue owners had a large representation at the event, they stood for all the businesses struggling post-pandemic.

“Patchogue is just an example of the restaurant industry across Long Island,” said David Kennedy, the executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce. “The message to our governor is that we were listening when the pandemic began and now we are asking that he listens to us.”

Phase 3 is anticipated to begin later this month, but shop owners, workers and their families believe the state’s full opening needs to sooner.

The hour-long rally began at 1 p.m. where dozens of people affected by the closings protested outside the county executive’s office at 100 Veterans Memorial Highway.

“It’s time,” Sarno said. “We’ve been abiding by the rules since the beginning. We have the masks, we have the gloves, we have the sanitizer. We need to open.”

Suffolk legislators and Brookhaven Town elected officials came to show their support.

“We can protect ourselves from COVID, and we can still reopen our economy,” county Legislator Leslie Kennedy told the crowd.

“This isn’t about profit for us,” said James Skidmore, manager of Toast Coffeehouse in Patchogue. “This is an economic issue… it’s about keeping our heads above water and the heads of our families above water.”

Sarno commended Bellone for supporting small business during this time, but the rally was meant to move things along faster.

The executive did not attend, but addressed outdoor dining during his virtual press conference at 2 p.m.

“This is something we’ve been anticipating and pushing for some time now,” he said. “We will expedite anything that comes to us that’s approved on a local level with the health department, and we’ll also work with local communities.”

All photos by Julianne Mosher