Coronavirus: From Plexiglas to leaving contact info, what dining out could look like in B.C.

Restaurants in B.C. are now allowed to reopen to dine-in customers for the first time in two months under the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are many protocols in place in order to keep both customers and staff safe and to maintain social distancing. These are not regulations but guidelines businesses can follow to develop their own plan that works for them.

However, on May 15, the Office of the Provincial Health Officer issued an order that restaurants, bars and cafes must now not exceed 50 per cent of their usual capacity of patrons at any one time.

There must be no more than six people at one table and each table must be two metres apart from each other or from the bar or counter.

If practicable, one member of every party must also leave contact information in the event there is a need for contact tracing.

When it comes to table service, there are many suggestions for businesses to consider before they can reopen.

Guests can now pour their own water out of bottle or jug, or water can be pre-poured at the bar.

Buffets and other self-service areas will be removed and servers will not be touching coffee cups when refilling coffee.

Servers could leave food and drinks at the front of the table and let guests pass them around after the server has stepped away.

Items like salt and pepper shakers, sauce dispensers, candles and other table-top items will be removed and only provided if requested. They will then be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

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Customers can also box up their own leftovers and are asked the limit the use of cash if possible.

Restaurants and cafes should also consider digital menu boards, large chalkboards or online pre-ordering alternatives to traditional menus. If this is not possible, establishments should consider single-use disposable menus.

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said Tuesday that all establishments will have to look at how they can open safely and abide by these guidelines to keep everyone safe.

When it comes to working in the kitchen, restaurants, bars and cafes should put up Plexiglas, if possible, between workspaces.

Staff should also be limited so social distancing can take place and establishments can look at creating cohorts of workers who work together but don’t interact with other cohorts.

If social distancing cannot be maintained in a kitchen, then employers may consider the use of masks.

Putting directional arrows on the floor in the kitchens can also help reduce interaction between cooking and clearing areas.

All businesses in B.C. are required to post the changes they have made in a public place.

While some restaurants are reopening right away, it is still not clear if any will be able to turn a profit operating under these new guidelines.

“The average restaurant in Canada makes approximately four per cent to the bottom line,” said Simon Benstead, who owns Marben Restaurant and The Cloak Bar in downtown Toronto.

In fact, new data collected by Ipsos shows roughly 26 per cent of Canadian restaurants won’t have the funds to reopen.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

— With files from Sean O’Shea and Meghan Collie

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