The governor announced today that restaurants will be able to start reopening dining service on May 11th, almost two months after being forced to close.
Dining service will follow a structured reopening with noticeable restrictions on the first phase.
For restaurants, workers will be required to wear face coverings, gloves for all staff, and have daily health screenings. Restaurants will also have to rearrange to put physical distance between patrons and tables and are being encouraged to move to reservations and pre-ordering.
Guests will be limited to groups of 10 or less and restaurants will only be allowed 1/3 of their normal occupancy. So a 100 seat restaurant will have a max capacity of 33.
Perhaps the biggest restriction will be bar service and entertainment within restaurants is prohibited. We are assuming this means seating at the bar itself, not a restriction on mixed drinks, but we are seeking clarification. We are also assuming this means a ban on bar centered establishments with the state minimum food offerings like Midtown or Proof Bar. The ban on entertainment will greatly impact the River Market area that relies heavily on concerts to bring in customers.
The big question that remains to be seen is how customers will react to dining in again. It will likely be a region by region difference. Also note that just because restaurants can reopen, it doesn’t mean they will. With the numbers continuing to rise there will be some restaurants make the decision to remain closed a little longer, just like several restaurants decided to close their dining rooms before the governor’s mandate.