THE STATE government has green-lighted the reopening of restaurants and bars, but a weekend ritual of a relaxed lunch with extended family or late evening drinks with a gang of friends may still be some weeks, if not months away, with a minimum distance of one metre between eating tables mandatory and combining tables disallowed.
Nearly six months after they were shut down, the Uddhav Thackeray-led government on Monday said restaurants and bars would be allowed to reopen from the first week of October. As a precautionary measure, the state has drafted new operational guidelines (SOPs) for their functioning. While these are expected to be issued in a day or two after receiving feedback from restaurateurs, here’s how in-room dining experience is expected to change:
* The government has asked customers to try and reserve seats beforehand. Once a customer reaches a restaurant, they will be screened for temperature and Covid-19 symptoms and also asked to sanitise hands. Masks will be compulsory for entry to the premises.
*Restaurants have been asked to avoid crowding, and in case of waiting customers, provide them with a separate waiting area compliant with social-distancing norms. Disposable menus or QR codes have been encouraged.
*Pre-plated cooked food will be a priority. Restaurants have been asked to avoid buffets in the near future, and if unavoidable, to ensure social distancing. Raw and cooked food items are to be kept separately to avoid any cross-contamination. The advisory says that raw food, like salads and cold foods, may not be served as far as possible. Water is to be served from bottles, the outer parts of which are also to be disinfected.
*General crockery is expected to be washed with food-grade disinfectants, whereas bar counter crockery is to be washed with hot water and lemon too. Bar counters and kitchen areas are to be regularly sanitised. Good quality disposable napkins are to be provided instead of cloth napkins. Natural ventilation is to be preferred over air-conditioning.
*The guidelines also prescribe staff members to wear masks and other protective gears at all times. Any staff member found with symptoms is to be isolated immediately. If a staff member is found positive, the premises are to be fumigated and deep cleaned and all other staffers are to be monitored and tested for symptoms. Plexiglass and other transparent barriers are to be used for cash counters and other places of interaction.
The restaurant industry which had suffered extensive losses had been petitioning the chief minister for the past few months to allow reopening establishments. The concern, however, is that the removal of masks for in-room dining may pose a risk. While agreeing to adhere to the state’s SOPs, various hotel and restaurant associations have sought relaxation in the cap on the distance between tables, especially for Udipis and small eating facilities, advocating the use of plexiglass screens between tables instead.
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