By Nyamekye Daniel | The Center Square
Georgians will be allowed to eat in public dining areas again Monday, but safety guidelines because of the COVID-19 pandemic will create a different experience for diners.
Dining out will will include social distancing guidelines still in effect and the absence of salad bars, buffets and self-service areas, according to guidance under Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order.
Kemp said he consulted with industry leaders and health officials to create the guidance outlined in the executive order. It is part of the first phase of restoring Georgia’s economy while the state remains under a stay-at-home order until Thursday.
“As we begin this process, let’s reaffirm our commitment to each other and Georgia’s future,” Kemp said. “I am confident that together, we will emerge victorious from this war.”
The guidelines must be followed by dining rooms in restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes and social clubs planning to open Monday.
Restaurants may have to redesign ahead of reopening eating areas.
Only 10 patrons will be allowed per 500 feet of public space in the establishment. For instance, a restaurant that has 2,000 feet of public space will be allowed to have 40 customers at any given time.
Restaurants were advised to continue pushing takeout over dining in. Restaurants should consider limiting reservations for up to six people. Those tables also must be least 6 feet apart with no preset silverware, the order said.
Even with a reservation, patrons may be required to wait outdoors and they won’t be guaranteed a chance to eat if they have a fever.
Restaurants are mandated to post signs that ban people with fevers, including staff. Employees will be screened daily for symptoms and will be required to wear masks at all times.
Employees who are sick must stay home and self-isolate for at least seven days. They cannot return to work unless symptoms have been gone for three consecutive days without medication.
To keep employees and patrons safe, workstations such as registers will be 6 feet apart and physical barriers such as Plexiglass are recommended in the guidelines.
In addition to regular table cleanups, workers will have to sanitize condiments, reusable menus and check presenters. Restaurants also can invest in disposable or nontouch options for menus.
Any digital devices need to be sanitized after each use. Electronic alternatives also can be used to replace cash. If not, hand sanitizer will be on standby.
Representatives for the Georgia Restaurant Association did not respond to requests for comment Friday, but Georgia’s guidelines mimic the National Restaurant Association’s recommendations that were created with help from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Ecolab and academia.
Kemp signed his first executive order lifting the restrictions on dine-in services on April 20.
Theaters also can reopen Monday. Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, tattoo studios, barbers, cosmetologists, nail technicians and beauty schools resumed operations Friday.
Bars, nightclubs and amusement parks will remain closed.