Dine-in services at Arkansas restaurants reopen, owners concerned some patrons aren’t taking the directives seriously

Arkansas News

(05/11/20) — It was a big day for restaurants in Arkansas as phase one kicked off. Restaurants were allowed to reopen their dine-in services under certain guidelines and restrictions.

“Everybody is excited. All of my staff came back in,” Owner of Fayrays Restaurant, Michael Rice said. “We did some prep work and prep cleaning getting ready for this.”

Restaurants were offering curb-side and pick up only services for over a month. It brought tears to Rice’s eyes as Fayrays relaunched their dine-in services with a few additions to its daily specials.

“It’s just fun to be back,” he said.

With fun also comes responsibility especially when making sure they are adhering to the guidelines Governor Hutchinson and other state officials announced on May 4.

Restaurants had to limit the number of customers to one-third of its total capacity. Seating had to be adjusted to maintain 10-foot physical distancing between tables so occupied
seats are six feet from seats at adjacent tables.

Fayrays kept their normal seating layout but have staggered the tables when people come in to eat. Once an individual or group gets up, employees can clean the table and allow for it to set for 30 minutes to an hour while another table is being used for another group.

Black Cat Restaurant on the square has also done a similar layout with additional precautions in place for customers. They are using paper menus instead of plastic and offering to-go utensils and cups. They’ve also taken condiments off of the table until someone requests it.

“I’ve talked to several of my friends that own restaurants here in town and everyone is doing what they can to keep it as safe as possible,” Rice said. “We’ve been trading ideas because we want to be a success.”

While these restaurants are doing what they can to keep everyone safe, they don’t believe some customers are taking it seriously.

The governor announced a list of directives for restaurants and patrons to follow. Included in the requirement was that patrons wear a face covering until their food or drink is served. However, customers aren’t coming into the restaurants with masks at all.

“The first table we had there were 5 people. They came without masks,” Manager at Black Cat Restaurant, Holly Vance said. “We provided them with masks but that cuts into our profits too.”

That sentiment was met with other restaurants including Laredo Grill and House of Wylie. They’ve been providing masks to customers so that they don’t turn anyone away but it puts restaurants in a difficult position.

Some owners have considered selling masks but they hope it doesn’t get to that point if people come in with their masks already. They want customers to come in and eat but they also want them to be mindful of the directives set in place.

“We’re all trying to figure this out together,”Vance said. We’d appreciate it you came in with a mask and that we didn’t have to provide you with one.”

The restrictions on dine-in service include:

  • Restaurants must limit number of customers to one-third of total capacity.
  • Tables must be ten feet apart so that diners will be seated six feet away from diners at other tables.
  • Each employee who directly interacts with patrons must wear a face mask that completely covers nose and mouth. Kitchen staff and others are encouraged to wear a mask.
  • Each employee must wear gloves. Gloves should be changed between each customer, customer group, or task.
  • Management must conduct a daily health screening of all employees before they enter the restaurant. An employee with a cough, sore throat, fever, or shortness of breath must not enter the restaurant.
  • Patrons must wear a face covering until the food or drink is served.
  • Salad bars, buffets, and other self-serve features will remain closed.
  • Groups must be 10 or fewer customers.
  • Tables, chairs, salt/pepper shakers, condiment containers, and napkin holders will be cleaned and disinfected after each customer.
  • Bars and entertainment operations (such as live music, in-seat gaming devices, or arcades) are prohibited.
  • Normal service of alcohol within the restaurant seating area is allowed.
  • Restrooms should be disinfected frequently.
  • Service may be declined to patrons not wearing masks. 

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