With state guidelines easing slightly, starting on Friday restaurants will be able to start opening their dining rooms to the public again. However, it may look a little different for each restaurant, and many people may still opt for takeout or delivery options.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Gov. Gary Herbert reminded Utah residents that the relaxation of statewide social distancing guidelines should not be mistaken for a return to “business as usual.”
Cache County Executive Craig Buttars said during Tuesday evening’s virtual County Council meeting that local restaurants have been advised to move their tables 10 feet apart so that individuals can still maintain 6-foot social distancing space. Restaurant employees will be required to wear face masks and to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms on a daily basis prior to interacting with the public.
“In the last 10 days, we have only had four new cases in the Bear River Health District, and all of those have been traceable,” Buttars said. “That puts us in a situation where the county can afford to open up a little bit more and it’s appropriate for us at this time.”
Julie Hollist Terrill, the director of Cache Valley Visitor’s Bureau, said an underlying question is even if restaurants open their doors on Friday, will people even go?
“I think people are nervous to dine-in, and it is funny to me because it will be the cleanest, safest time in history that you could ever eat out, and this is when people are going to shy away from it the most,” Hollist Terrill said. “We are trying so desperately to help in any way we can to save the restaurants here in Cache Valley.”
Hollist Terrill said there have been many innovations over the past few weeks, and some restaurants have even taken advantage of the abnormal circumstances to do some remodeling.
Angie’s Restaurant is in that latter group and due to the current status of the construction it will not be reopening on Friday.
Another thing that makes reopening restaurants a bit tricky is finding enough supplies to sustain increased public contact.
Screening is required, but thermometers are hard to come by, and the same goes for hand sanitizer for the sanitizing stations that are now being mandated in various locations in the restaurants, Hollist Terrill said.
“We are facing a lot of challenges,” Hollist Terrill said. “Including the fact that restaurants will have to continue curbside service along with the dine-in option, spreading restaurant operations a little thin. Now we are juggling so many logistics that are outside of everybody’s comfort zones.”
Hollist Terrill said the restaurateurs she has talked to have been very grateful for the patience from the community as they continue to navigate the changing landscape.
“Some of the restaurant’s revenues have been down 60%, and those are serious numbers,” Hollist Terrill said. “So we are all excited about having people come back through the doors.”
Because of these reasons, Hollist Terrill said she has noticed some restaurants in the county wanting to take a little more time to adjust to the new guidelines before opening to the public.
“It has come pretty quickly so they need some more time to make a plan,” Hollist Terrill said.
Hollist Terrill said a list will be sent out later in the week so people will know where they can go and what to expect when they get there.
Buttars added during the virtual meeting that officials of the Bear River Health Department would likely be announcing revised guidelines for people to observe under the new moderate threat level.
“There’s always the possibility of a new local virus outbreak that would force us to move back into the ‘red’ restriction level,” Buttars said. “How well this works will depend on how well our public reacts, particularly if they’re willing to wear their masks, observe social distancing guidelines, sanitize frequently and follow all the other common sense guidelines we’ve had in effect for the past month.”