Governor Hutchinson announces plans for limited dine in services at restaurants

Arkansas News

EL DORADO, Ark. (04/29/20) — Governor Asa Hutchinson announced restaurants in Arkansas may resume limited dine-in service on May 11 under Phase 1 guidelines that require daily health screening of staff, use of face masks and gloves, and strict social distancing.

“Based on current data that shows we have slowed the spread of COVID-19, we have decided it is safe to resume dine-in restaurant service with some common-sense limits,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This is a significant but cautious step on the path back to normalcy. We will monitor the success of this step, and move to Phase 2 as quickly as we safely can.”

Restaurant owners like Michael Rice says he’s content that with the soft reopen and the date because it gives his business plenty of time to prepare.

William Golden, a cook at Johnny B’s restaurant says he’s also happy to hear the governor’s announcement.

“This is how we feed our family. This is how we pay our bills,” Golden said.

Restaurants must limit the number of customers to one-third of its total capacity. Rice has a few ideas of how he will configure his restaurant though his final decision will be based on the safety of his customers and employees.

“We don’t want anyone crowded. We don’t want anyone to feel rushed and we want to keep it of course as sanitary and as safe as we possibly can for them.”

The owner of Laredo Grill is also pleased with decision. His restaurant closed all services so that the business and employees could be prepared for the opening date.

The owner plans to offer take out and curbside assistance on May 4.

The restrictions on dine-in service under this directive 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. 

These Phase 1 restrictions will remain in place until Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith determines that they may be relaxed or discontinued.

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