Concessionaire Jason Donofrio Rising To Challenge At Tallman Pool And Rockland Lake In Summer 2020
By Tina Traster
Nothing about the summer of 2020 will be normal but Jason Donofrio, owner of Cousins Concessions LLC, is gearing up for what he hopes will be possible. Even if nothing operates full-tilt, this is his season and Donofrio is willing to make the best of it.
The food concession at Rockland Lake pool and golf course opened Memorial Day but business has been painfully slow. Donofrio is also now readying for an early July opening of food service at Tallman Beach & Pool Club in Palisades. In both cases, social distancing and new sanitizing protocols need to be implemented, provisions will be scaled back, and managing patron count will be a challenge.
What remains unclear, though, is if or when the state pools will be given the green light to open. Swimming pools are due to open either in Phase 3 or 4 of New York’s reopening. Meanwhile, many town pools in Rockland County will stay closed this summer.
“We believe pools in state parks will open in early July based on what we’re hearing,” said Donofrio, whose company is managing Tallman Pool for the first time this summer.
Meanwhile, Donofrio is preparing for summer fun in uncharted waters. Typical capacity at Tallman Pool will shrink from 354 patrons to 125 in order to maintain social distancing. The kiddy pool is being turned into a fountain to create ambiance while a dozen tables spread apart will be used for outdoor dining. The number of Adirondack chairs will be scaled back from 80 to about 30.
“If we’re going to open, we have to do it right,” said Donofrio.
Donofrio, who will be managing the entire Tallman Pool operation, said staffing of 50 to 60 will be maintained but there will be fewer food servers and more hands on deck to keep the environment sparkling clean.
Pool passes, which had been open-ended in previous summers, will be limited.
“We’re going to have an APP members will have to use to make reservations,” said Donofrio. “This way we’ll know who is coming and how many walk-ins we can accommodate on any given day.”
No business sector has been harder by the pandemic than food and hospitality. Donofrio expects capacity at the pools this summer to hover at about 25 percent to 30 percent. He says business at Rockland Lake State Park’s north pool is down 90 percent year to date though he’s kept on a skeletal staff of 20. Even if the Rockland Lake pool does reopen this season, capacity of 3,500 will be reduced by at least two thirds.
Donofrio, nearly a three-decade veteran of the concessions business, started his own entity in 2015. He admits it will be a tough season financially. It’s just math. But he’s committed to seeing it through no matter what.
“Right now I’m preparing each day for what I need,” he said. “I can get what I need as I go.”
Donofrio knows how to county his blessings. He’s grateful for his health, his friends and family, and because he isn’t saddled with a brick-and-mortar location (he operates from his house).
Still, to keep the business running, he’s had to dig into savings and plans to apply for PPP and other government loans.
“I always understood the concept of a rainy day,” he said. “It’s raining right now.”
Donofrio says he’ll be satisfied if he breaks even this summer.
“I’m an optimist,” he said. “I’m okay. I know things will be okay. Worst case scenario, I’ll get a pushcart and sell ice cream on the road.”