ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Restaurants across some states are starting to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic and are offering a much different dining experience to try and keep people safe. The City of Albuquerque is also working on how to reopen restaurants safely once the state gives the go-ahead.
“We consider restaurants to be one of the sort of highest risk as we try to bring people back out into the world a bit. It’s not uncommon for there to be lines waiting in the lobby or crowds of people at tables so we consider that an area that’s risky,” Dr. Mark DiMenna with Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Dept.
He said when allowed, restaurants will open slowly. “As we are talking about re-opening, it’s not like a storm where it’s passed and it’s gone and now we’re safe. We know that this virus is going to continue to circulate this pandemic is going to go on,” he said.
DiMenna said to expect to start reopening with limited occupancy, employees wearing masks and gloves, and even the encouraged use of debit and credit cards instead of cash since cards can be sanitized. Owners of Farina Alto, and its sister restaurants Farina Pizzeria and The Artichoke Cafe, said they’re ready to reopen once the state allows it.
The owners, Pat and Terry Keene plan to take precautions like having social distance between tables, constantly sanitizing the buildings and even using paper menus to start so they don’t need to be reused.
“I think we can alleviate people’s fears though, by doing it the right way,” said Pat. “That’s what we intend. I don’t want people to be afraid to go to restaurants. And I think if the timing is right they won’t be.”
Their restaurants have been closed during the pandemic but plan to start take-out on May 4. They are also preparing to fully open when the time comes. “We would rather do it right so that we don’t have to close again. Closing the first time was hard enough, we don’t want to have to do it again,” Pat said.
Many restaurants in town are turning to other parts of the country and world who are starting to re-open to see what they could possibly expect.
“Friends of mine from around the country have been telling me their local governments have plans of opening with partial capacity and good sanitation practices . I think it’s going to be a lot like that,” Israel Rivera, owner of The Shop ABQ LCC, said.”All we can do is wait for the new mandates and adapt as we need too. Our priority has been and will continue to be to keep our employees and customers safe .”
In Tennessee, some restaurants are opening at half capacity while employees wear masks and gloves. In Alaska, one restaurant is sanitizing menus after every guest and sanitizes high touch areas every hour. In Hong Kong, some restaurants are placing plastic shields between costumers.
The City of Albuquerque did not give a timeline on when a finalized plan would be announced but did say the plan would coincide with guidelines from the state. In an emailed statement the state said it is working on it:
“The Environment Department is collaborating with industry associations and other stakeholders to ensure that New Mexico’s food establishments safely reopen. Protecting customers and employees while rebuilding our economy will be critical to this effort.”
According to the National Restaurant Association, the pandemic will have cost the entire industry $80 billion by the end of April. It also provided these guidelines for restaurants on how to safely re-open. The White House has laid out this draft on how to reopen all businesses in the nation.
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