Of all the businesses affected by COVID-19 (which is most of 'em), restaurants seem to have somehow become the de facto poster biz for industries hit hard. This could have something to do with Santa Fe's proud reputation as a food destination (New Mexican food is the greatest and it's practically impossible to find it done well anyplace outside of the state), or it could be because it's one of the oldest business models known to humankind.
Restaurants did receive some measured good news this week: New public health orders allow for a soft reopening situation, and eateries with patios and/or outdoor seating can start serving again right away—with special provisions that also apply for a broader June 1 reopening.
In the May 15 "All Together New Mexico" guidelines, state officials and a team of industry folks issue a detailed plan for how to act in that next phase, including a small but challenging list for restaurant operations in the time of COVID-19. Read them all at bit.ly/2M21uIG.
Here's quick a look:
Adhere to required “COVID-Safe Practices for All Employers.”
Other than workers wearing masks, this is mainly about making sure there's 6 feet of distance and hand sanitizer and stuff, nothing too weird there. In fact, much of this is already done by restaurants—like employees washing their hands before returning to work.
Adhere to required “COVID-Safe Practices for Retail Establishments.”
This list focuses on cleaning schedules and a reminder about state occupancy limits that at presstime remain at 25%.
Discontinue service stations that require customers to congregate in certain areas or use common utensils/dispensers, including salad bars, buffets and beverage and -coffee stations.
Can't lie, folks—this one hurts, especially for people who like to get down with a Chinese buffet or claim to love salad bars because they often end in soft serve. Knowing this, some places will continue to face tough realities.
Comply with state public health order limitations on bar and counter seating and non-seated service; and, if otherwise permitted, ensure that 6 feet or more distance is -maintained between customers.
You're not going to be sitting on a barstool next to someone anytime soon. This has never been anyone's favorite thing anyway, but at least with rules changing you can act like it was your plan all along, right? Lower occupancies probably won't hurt this one, either.
Discontinue gaming areas and other such areas of the restaurant where customers may congregate for extended periods of time and/or surfaces that are repeatedly touched and cannot be cleaned and disinfected between each use.
So long, sit-down Ms. Pac-Man machine.
Employees who handle items used or provided by customers must properly wash their hands or change gloves before serving another customer.
If you just bussed a table, it's time for new gloves. You know what might help? Ask any tattooer you know about glove procedure. They're geniuses at that, no joke.
Discontinue allowing pets, -excluding service animals, inside the establishment, onto patios, into stores or other such areas.
And no, this doesn't mean you should get online and order a fake service animal vest—that's just hurting people.
Provide single-use items such as plates, cutlery and napkins to customers and do not leave them in common areas or on tables for self-service.
Remember when we didn't even have plastic bags at grocery stores here? That was, like, three weeks ago.
Clean and sanitize reusable items such as menus and condiment containers left on tables after each use. If items cannot be cleaned and sanitized after each use, offer single-use items.
Good news for laminated menu joints, bad news for upper-tier restaurants that now have to figure out a larger print job. Also good news for those little ketchup packets.
To support contact tracing, retain a daily log for at least four weeks including the date, name and phone number or email address of all customers and employees who enter the establishment.
If you haven't come across this at your local haunts yet, it's almost understandable to be like "Why do you need that?" to some poor nerd manning a coffee shop counter. But just do it. This isn't like when Radio Shack wanted your address—we all saw who lasted longer on that one—these places are just trying to stay as open as they can.