Dining Rooms Reopen in 21 States with Significant Restrictions

Day by day, more restaurants reopen across the country. Despite costly restrictions, some dining rooms have reopened in the following 21 states according to the New York Times: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. Additional states are planning to allow restaurant owners to reopen later this month.

Restaurant managers must comply with new safety guidelines in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The FDA maintains an official listing of state-by-state guidelines here. Some of the common rules include the following:

  • Employees must wear masks and gloves.
  • Owners should provide free hand sanitizer for both employees and guests.
  • Managers should deny access to sick or symptomatic people.
  • Salad bars and buffet-style food services are prohibited.
  • Valet services and bar seating are discouraged.
  • Almost all cities recommend limiting occupancy to 25% of the building’s listed capacity.

In order to maintain a minimum six feet of social distance between parties, many state regulators recommend spacing tables 10 feet apart. This table spacing guideline spawned a mnemonic, the so-called 10/10/10 rule. “The 10/10/10 rule specifies that these businesses must limit the number of individuals on-site (inclusive of employees and customers) to no more than 10 percent of building occupancy or 10 people (whichever is larger),” explain Kansas regulators who have adopted it as their official guidance for restaurants.

Observant readers might wonder why the regulation only describes two of the three 10s. The final 10 refers to an outdated recommendation that businesses limit the length of patronage to 10 minutes. Original rules were drafted stating that business owners would have to maintain complete logs of customers who patronized their establishment for more than 10 minutes. Almost all states, including Kansas, have downgraded this onerous task to a suggestion. Kansas’ government website now states, “A good rule of thumb is that businesses should consider recording contact information if customers typically sit down for more than 10 minutes while frequenting a business. Salons, for example, may satisfy this recommendation by maintaining a roster of reservations or appointments.”

Regulations vary by state. For example, Iowa has a 50% capacity limit on dining rooms. Texas has a 25% cap. Kansas started with a restrictive 10% cap but is updating its guidance by the day, lifting it to 25% this afternoon within Kansas City.

All of these regulations help explain why yesterday was such an eerily quiet Mother’s Day for many restaurants. In prior years, restaurateurs typically drew approximately 87 million patrons — or one quarter of U.S. residents — into their dining rooms on Mother’s Day. Due to drastic reduction in openings and capacity. Yesterday’s tally will barely reach seven figures.

Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

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