As restaurants and other businesses open back up, will people come?
Gov. Ned Lamont is allowing restaurants and eateries to offer outdoor dining, starting Wednesday, under social distancing and other guidelines he imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He has asked cities and towns to be flexible with their zoning to allow al fresco dining so that eateries without patios can compete.
Reopening the economy is going to be a long haul, but this is a first step that applies to restaurants (outdoor only, no bar areas); remaining retail; outdoor recreation; offices; personal services (hair); museums and zoos (outdoor only).
In Southington, town officials have been working on ways to allow businesses to expand outdoor dining in anticipation of fewer state restrictions. Expedited approval for tents in parking lots, patios and sidewalk tables were all on the agenda.
While it’s good to see that municipalities have been preparing for Wednesday’s partial reopening, the governor still has the last word. And it remains to be seen whether the returning customers will be come in a flood or a trickle. In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent of respondents in Connecticut said it will take at least a few months before it’s safe to reopen the economy.
“I'm hearing from a lot of customers that they won't come down and sit outside,” said one restaurant owner in Southington. “It may not work for us at all.”
For the record, there are pages and pages of instructions on the state website (https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DECD/Covid_Business_Recovery/CTReopens), but here are the basic guidelines:
■ Capacity limit of 50% for businesses that reopen.■ Strict cleaning and disinfection protocols in all settings.■ Those who can work from home should continue to do so.■ Those in high-risk groups (comorbidities) and over the age of 65 should continue to stay safe and stay home.■ Face masks should continue to be worn in public at all times.■ Social gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of 5 people.
One question raised by Shane Lockwood, the Plainville-Southington Health District director, was whether customers will be allowed to use restaurant bathrooms rather than portable bathrooms. A recent, close reading of the state “Reopen Connecticut” website, however, did not yield a clear answer.
The road to anything like normal life is going to be a long one, and there are sure to be bumps along the way. We sincerely hope that everything goes well, as so many small businesses try to get back on their feet, without igniting a new surge in Covid-19 cases.