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280 Kane St. STE #2
South Williamsport, PA
United States

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Creative COVID Solutions

It’s been a long spring. Like, interminably long. The Coronavirus has changed everyone’s lives, and the local restaurant industry is no exception. While most places were either open or closed, restaurants had to learn to grapple with a new way of operating. Places that never offered takeout or delivery had to figure out how to

It’s been a long spring. Like, interminably long. The Coronavirus has changed everyone’s lives, and the local restaurant industry is no exception.

While most places were either open or closed, restaurants had to learn to grapple with a new way of operating. Places that never offered takeout or delivery had to figure out how to make that work, in order to save their businesses, and most have made it through.

But ‘Green Phase’ isn’t the end for them. They now have a whole new set of rules and regulations to learn and follow while keeping their businesses afloat. It goes way beyond customers wearing a mask and keeping six feet apart.

As restaurants navigate their way through, many have come up with ‘creative solutions’ to keep business running and customers fed and happy. Along with takeout and delivery, a few offered good old-fashioned car-hop service, amongst other things. There has also been a surge of beverages to-go — slushie season is in full force! In the City of Williamsport, mayor Derek Slaughter is lifting the open container laws that allow people to get a drink and take a walk in the city.

Before I get into the details of how these eateries are now expected to function, let’s start by emphasizing the need for patron patience. Things are not going to be the same as they were the last time you went out to eat. There will be fewer seats, more space, and more policies to follow. PLEASE be patient and courteous to your host(esses), waitstaff, managers, etc. They are just trying to do their jobs and navigate new territory and will be learning on the fly. There will be wait-times and missteps. But if you are patient and understanding, it will make everyone a lot happier. And don’t forget, many of these people have been living without their normal incomes for months, so don’t forget to tip! Also, being forced to operate at 50% capacity, means 50% less opportunity for tips. It also means that the owners themselves have a 50% less chance for income. Most restaurants need to run regularly at 80% capacity to stay in the black.

Try to check out restaurants’ websites and Facebook pages before you head out for a meal so you can see their policies and how they are handling things, so you know what to expect before you show up.

Brian Haller from the Southside Restaurant said they have added new outside dining to help accommodate extra seating. “We are introducing ‘The Rail’ at The South Side. Eighteen outdoor seats where the view is underwhelming but the food and drinks rock! Open beginning June 5 during normal business hours — weather permitting. Seating at The Rail will be on a first-come-first-serve basis. Reservations cannot be taken due to the possibility of inclement weather and inside occupancy restrictions of the Governor.”

Tara, from Trifecta Bar & Grill in Montoursville, said that their rooftop bar is ready and waiting! They have lots of outdoor seating available and have been working hard to comply with the Governor’s orders.

Janet Jackson from Eat and Run Catering at Water Tower Square said they have their outside dining ready to go too! They also have a beautiful new dining room that will be available, but at the required 50% capacity.

The Cellblock is also ready to re-open. They noted that that things will be different there, though. They will have the upper/lower patio, pub, pub landing, and the entire main bar and band room open. Tables will be six feet apart and have a max seating of ten people per table. The dance floors will be closed, and there is no standing or congregating in open areas around the bar. They will also have waitstaff for drink orders as no one not seated at the bar can walk up to the bar to order.

Pier 87 Bar & Grill is fortunate to have plenty of outdoor space to help make up for the loss of capacity. “The takeout business has provided us with a steady flow of guests and enabled us to bring back some of our employees, leading up to green. This week we are arranging our tables to be 50% inside and adding tables to the patio for full service. We have been meeting all this week with the staff from each department to go over new restrictions and get them acclimated to the restaurant and our normal procedures once again. It is going to be a great challenge, but we feel that our staff is up for this challenge.”

From everything that I have read, the basic rules for restaurants are this: Everyone must operate at 50% capacity. All tables must be six feet apart. No more than ten people with a common relationship can be seated together except at a bar, where there will be a four-person limit. You must wear a mask when entering and exiting, or moving around the premises, i.e., going to the restroom, and you can remove your mask while seated.

As we all learn to navigate “Green Phase” please keep these tips from PA Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association:

“Please remember that this is a new world with new rules for restaurants and taverns. You’re most likely going to a restaurant that recently put together an outdoor seating plan in hopes of generating enough money to hire back staff and keep their business alive. They are trying their best, but everything may not be perfect.

“Some may even be setting up in the streets or in parking lots. It’s going to be fun, but it’s also going to be hard on the employees. You’ll see them wearing masks no matter how hot it gets. And, possibly, you’ll see them walk a long distance to get more water. They are going to be hot and most likely overwhelmed because restaurants are not set up for this, and they’ll be navigating new guidance from the state.

“Please help your servers in this journey by doing the following:

“1. Don’t over-run your server. Try your best to ask for everything you need at once. Remember, it could be a long walk from the street into the building for more water or anything else. Help them out by asking all at once.

“2. No mask jokes or your views on them. The server has to wear it. They have no choice.

“3. The server is wearing the mask to protect you, and you have nothing on to protect them. Please remember if you sneeze or cough, do so into your elbow or into a tissue. COVID-19 has not gone away.

“4. Wash your hands. It’s for both your good health and that of restaurant staffing.

“5. Be mindful of your time. Turning over tables in a timely manner will help others. So, eat your meal. Have some drinks, but please do not sit at a table all night unless you continue to spend money. These restaurants are working with very limited space. They can’t afford for you to sit there for hours without ordering. Yes, people do do that — all the time.

“6. Don’t come out if you’re sick. That’s not good for anyone.

“7. Social distancing. Keep your kids at the table. Yes. They’re cute, but don’t let them run around.

“8. Cut everyone some slack. Everything may be a bit slow at first because this is basically a new job for everyone. We’re all navigating this new world with new rules. Please be kind and understanding.

“9. Tip generously. Please treat servers and bartenders right and leave a decent tip. Remember, many in the restaurant industry have not been able to work for nearly two months. They need your help.

“10. Be pleasant. You should be happy. You’re finally out!

“11. Realize that the staff is doing their best.”

I hope that everyone heads out soon to have a meal and relax somewhere other than your couch for a change. Enjoy your meal, be kind and tip well!

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