by Terry Rogers
On Monday, June 1, Delaware began Phase I of the COVID-19 Recovery Plan. During Phase I, restaurants are permitted to open with strict restrictions.
“We’ve all been working really hard for you guys,” Marissa Cordell of EasySpeak Spirits in Milford, DE said. “We are all so excited to open and welcome all of you back. We are required to make reservations and have set up a website to do those which can be found on our Facebook and web page. None of us have used reservations before so it is a learning curve. If you can’t get the reservation system to work, come to the parking lot, text us and we will see if we can get you in.” Take out is also available for those who are still not comfortable going out to eat.
During the closure of the restaurant, EasySpeak expanded their outdoor patio and have placed tables eight feet apart. Face coverings must be worn into the restaurant and to the table but can be removed as long as diners remain at the table. Under state law, the bar will not be open for seating, but bartenders will be on hand to make cocktails. Hand sanitizing stations will be clearly visible as well. Single-use menus and condiments will also be provided.
“This new normal will be an adjustment for us all and we appreciate your support as we all work through this new chapter together,” Cordell said.
One additional aspect of the Phase I reopening plan was the allowance of restaurants to request additional outdoor seating. Governor John Carney authorized local municipalities to create a method for restaurants to expand or add outdoor seating, a suggestion made during business town hall meetings during the COVID-19 closures. This was added as restaurants are only allowed to use 30 percent of their indoor fire capacity. This means that a restaurant that has been deemed by the fire marshal to be safe for 100 people can only allow 30 people at a time inside. Allowing outdoor seating with proper social distancing would permit restaurants to seat more patrons.
“I have talked to Trish Gerken at DMI and told her the City would be interested if we can help a business provide additional outdoor space,” Mark Whitfield, Milford City Manager, said. “There are a lot of things that must take place to make it safe and amenable, but I am open to discussion with any business who wants to do this.”
Madula Kalesis at Westside Diner has asked for information about expanding her outdoor seating.
“Any restaurant that wishes to expand their outdoor seating should contact the City office,” Whitfield said. “If they simply want to expand on their own property, taking up space in a parking lot or something like that, they should contact Rob Pierce but if the expansion would infringe on any right-of-ways, like sidewalks, they need to contact us.”
In addition to the capacity requirement, restaurants are required to use disposable menus and single-use condiment containers. Servers must wear masks at all times and patrons should be asked to replace face coverings if they visit the restroom. Guests may not stand inside the restaurant waiting for tables n or are they permitted to stand at tables of other guests. Dance floors, arcade games and pool tables must remain closed. Tables must be sanitized before patrons sit and immediately after they leave.
“Arena’s is deeply committed to following all the guidelines available to assure that we can provide a safe dining experience,” Ramsay Schrader said, part-owner of Arena’s said. “That will include calling ahead for a reservation in order to come inside the building. The major goal of this measure is to prevent people congregating inside while waiting for a table. Arena’s won’t be taking advanced reservations but instead a call ahead waitlist type of system.”
Schrader explained that patrons should come to any Arena’s restaurant and call the reservation number for that location that is available on their Facebook page. A host will confirm if there is space available at that time. When a table is available, patrons will receive a phone call that their table is ready, and they can move inside.
Governor Carney has not yet announced when he expects the state to move into Phase II of the Restarting Delaware’s Economy plan. In that plan, it is expected that restaurants will be able to operate at higher capacities and bars will again be open with reduced standing-room capacity. Governor Carney stated that there were many things that must happen before the state could move into Phase II, including adequate personal protective equipment, widespread testing, increased contact tracing, and strict compliance with social distancing guidelines.