Oh, how I’ve missed the luxury of going to a restaurant with friends and family to catch up with one another, and to see each other, talk to each other, in person. I have missed this interaction more than I had imagined I would have. In Illinois, under the Restore Illinois plan, restaurants have been open for outside dining since May 29, 2020. My first experience dining at a restaurant since the shutdown was filled with excitement and wonder. Although I’ve done carry out, I was excited to go out for a meal and eat someone else’s cooking for the first time since March. I did wonder though, how outdoor dining would work with precautions in place and wondered about how my dining experience would be different than it was pre-pandemic. My dining experience was amazing. I felt safe as all necessary precautions were taken to ensure my health and safety.
As the Phases of reopening begin to move forward, what does this mean with regard to your health and safety? Well, The State of Illinois provided guidelines and protocols for restaurants, servers, and other employees to ensure a healthy and safe dining environment for both the staff and the guests. With a limited amount of seating and extra precautions, restaurants have reopened and COVID-19 dining experiences are no longer just drive through take out. Restaurants with outdoor seating have reopened to the public and some restaurants have arranged temporary outdoor dining areas to serve customers.
Phase 3 of the Governor’s State of Illinois reopening plan is in effect at the moment. Restaurants were able to provide outdoor dining services to parties of six (6) people or less, weather depending, of course. Many restaurants have established outdoor dining areas on sidewalks, streets, and parking lots, while other establishments continue to use already existing outdoor dining areas. Phase 4 of the reopening plan starts on June 26, 2020, if all continues to go well. This means that restaurants can open for indoor dining at 25% of its capacity with an increase of ten people per table while tables to continue to be six feet apart.
What does this mean with regard to your health and safety? Reopening guidelines for restaurants feature more privacy for guests by spreading tables apart from one another. Restaurant staff must wear masks at all times and continue to wash their hands often, basically any time before food is served, after food is served, and all times in between. Tables and chairs are wiped down from top to bottom using an approved disinfectant. Some menus may be limited and will be printed on disposable menus or through apps. While the guidelines may mean that establishments have fewer tables than before and possibly a longer wait time for food or service, this is for the safety of patrons and staff. It is best to call ahead to find out wait times or to make a reservation and remember to be kind to servers and staff as we are ALL adapting to the new Phases of reopening.
Please be patient as these businesses plan to fit the restrictions and precautions put in place during Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the State’s reopening plan. Small businesses, especially restaurants, need the support of their communities during these times. Not only will you and your family have a chance to support a business, but you will also help support their staff members and create jobs for your community members. Please support local small business restaurants this summer by stopping by for a meal with your friends or family!
Written by Laura A. Kennard
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