As Georgetown restaurants start to reopen elaborate plans are being made to follow extensive safety protocols outlined by the state.
Restaurants limited for months to curbside pick-up or delivers opened Friday under a new set of rules. For example, they can only operate at 30 percent capacity, must provide patrons hand sanitizer, conduct more disinfectant cleaning and make sure people remain six feet apart.
Devising a social distancing plan in a pub known for its cozy atmosphere was difficult, said Slainte co-owner Ashley Nunn. For example, there is now a one-way flow through the bar area to keep people from congregating.
“We’ve worked hard to create a homey feel,” Nunn said. “The new layout has changed that.”
Even though the pub is operating at reduced capacity, the staff on duty is double the norm and employees will receive bonuses because tips are likely to be down. She said payroll is the biggest cost and it will be a financial challenge to keep the small business operating.
The pub had a lot of regulars who are eager to get back, she said.
“Eager may be an understatement,” Nunn said. But people still need to follow the rules.
“We know that will be a challenge at least the first week or so because not only is it new, but some of these folks haven’t seen each other in months. That is why we’re adding additional staff to walk around and remind everyone of the importance of distancing so we can remain open,” she said.
Restaurants can open but some are making the decision to stay closed.
“We are just not ready,” said Kathy Lyons, co-owner of Fat Katz.
She said it didn’t seem right to ask employees to come back at the diminished capacity. “I’m not going to take their unemployment away from them to come back at 33 percent,” Lyons said.
With curbside pick up only, she said, the restaurant is already bringing about 50 percent of the typical revenue.
She said the challenges of enforcing some of the required rules – like seating only members of the same household at a table – seemed difficult to enforce.
“We’d have to bring in staff to man the door and say ‘I’m sorry I can’t seat you’. Some would understand and some wouldn’t. That is just too much for us to take on.
And the restaurant known for touting that their pizza was too good for delivery is now exploring the option.
“We have never, ever done delivery,” she said. That, too, may take some time. At peak hours on Friday and Saturday nights the kitchen is already operating near capacity.
While Kentucky churches could offer in-person services as early as May 9 others felt they needed more time.
Father Linh Nguyen said a detailed plan will allow the parishioners of S.S. Francis and John Catholic to celebrate Mass for the first time in months.
A lot of research of what has worked in states like Texas and Virginia helped serve as a guide.
“We were trying to find a technique that would fit our community,” he said.
An outdoor service is planned for 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Cardome. Masks are required and while households may sit together, they must remain six feet apart from other family groups.
Safety concerns has even shifted the order Mass. Typically celebrated near the middle of Mass, communion will now be given at the end of the service. Usually members of the church line up and receive the sacrament one at a time with the host either in their hands or on their tongue. Now, he said, before blessing the host he will put on a mask and sanitize his hands. Each person will sanitize their hands as they move through the line, receiving the host only in their palms. It will be a drive thru process.
It may be awhile before things return to the church building on Main Street.
“Our congregation is too big, and our church is too small,” Nguyen said. Moving back into the worship space isn’t practical. “We are not there yet.”
But, he added, the make-shift gathering is important. “The ability to gather as a community to worship is part of the fabric of this nation.”
Mayor Tom Prather is unsure how many businesses or churches will reopen this weekend. A collaborative organization including the Chamber of Commerce, the WedCo Health Department and government agencies has been working together to help provide support and guidance to local companies.
Prather said the health department will carefully monitor the data about COVID-19 infections and the city is prepared to make changes as necessary. It’s important, he said, to wear a mask and practice social distance.
“We are all consumers and our behavior will determine the success of our reopening,” he said.
He knows that a percentage of the community see wearing masks not as a safety issue but a threat to individual freedoms. He has told the city council that no one will be asked by law enforcement to wear a mask or why they chose not to wear one.
“As for me,” he said, “if you see me out all you will see is a mask and white hair.”