What ALL of us (including those with physical disabilities) Want/Need to Know about Restaurant Re-openings - 06/28/20

Now that restaurants on Long Island have been given the green light to reopen, primarily with outdoor dining, what do we want/need to feel safe when we decide to return? 

Making the decision to eat at a restaurant, even if outdoors, is a very personal one. No one should tell you what to do. If you don’t feel comfortable (for any reason), don’t do it;  stay home, and order in!

That being said, if you decide to “eat out,” there seem to be many choices, including venues that have never done outdoor seating before. I have put together some suggestions I have garnered from reading and webinars I have attended. These are things I feel one should check on and look for, when choosing a venue. 

Most of the articles I have read say that it is generally safer outdoors than in. Restaurants have gotten extremely creative with outdoor space. But what about restaurants that have created outdoor dining spaces that are somewhat “enclosed?” - tents with side flaps, or high “walls” intended to obstruct views of parking lots. My research tells me that the more it is like an indoor space, the more chance there is for risks associated with indoor dining. Restaurants with large windows that are kept open are considered better options than traditional, indoor, dining areas.

We have heard about paper or online menus, disposable plates and silverware. Everything I have heard suggest that these items are not a threat. But, if you are concerned ( I admit that I never thought of it), anyone can request disposable plates and utensils. Condiments also must be requested. Restaurants that provide hand wipes at every table are offering a lovely touch. At the very least,  hand-sanitizing stations should be accessible throughout the venue. 

We all know about the six-foot rule. Some venues are making the distance greater than that. Some are providing plastic dividers or other creative ideas for natural distancing between tables. Masks must be worn, except at you table.  A gentle reminder I heard about; if you remove your mask to eat, DO NOT put it on the table. You might want to put it in a pocket, or perhaps in a bag that you have brought with you.

While we ( I ) tend to think that outdoor dining is easily accessible, this may not always be the case. One may have to walk up or down steps or a ramp to get to the tables. If this is a concern,  please check with the restaurant before going. Another item to check on -  someone just mentioned to me, is about the actual seating. Not all venues have chairs. Some have gone to picnic style tables and benches, which may make it difficult, or, impossible for some to sit there.

What about the restrooms? You may want to do some checking on the restroom situation . How easy will it be for you to get to the restroom (steps, distance, etc)?  One venue I heard about is offering golf carts to get patrons from their parking lot “dining area” to the main entrance of the building, in order to use the restroom.  Restrooms need to be monitored. Once you get to them, how are they being monitored? Is there someone making sure that only a single person or limited number of people are inside at one time?  Are the restrooms being sanitized between each user? Are there adequate supplies to clean surfaces properly? Is there someone doing that? Can one enter and exit without touching anything - if not, is there sanitizer readily available for use? Restrooms must document their cleaning schedule.  On one webinar, I heard a panelist say that restrooms have always been a problem, especially for those with disabilities. Perhaps the best suggestion I heard was to always go prepared - have sanitizer, tissues, and enough disposable gloves for you to remove and dispose of after each “touch.” Certainly good advice!

Most of us are excited about the prospect of dining out once again. Restaurants are just as excited to have us. We need to remember that they are trying to get their act together, trying to serve us as best they can in this strange world. We need to be understanding when things don’t go as planned. We need to get in and out in a reasonable amount of time, so that another group can enjoy themselves. We need to not make a reservation we cannot keep. Finally, we need to show our appreciation by tipping generously. 

Businesses in NY State  are required to have a safety plan that is readily available for viewing. They must also conspicuously post their “pledge” for safety. 

Things will get better. We need to be aware of the things that can keep us safe until they do!