A typical Wednesday night at Deer Park Tavern goes something like this: The restaurant is empty enough that your request for bar seating is fulfilled but busy enough that you might just see someone you know. At the bar, there are no plexiglass dividers or seating limits, and there’s the vague sense that there are a lot of people in this restaurant tonight. Many of the Main Street bars have become exactly the type of environment where COVID-19 can run rampant.
As of July 24, 2020, state-level regulations stipulate that restaurants and bars operate at 60% capacity or less, an alternation from the previous rule that bars operate at 25% capacity. This large jump in operational capacity is likely due to widespread testing and the introduction of the vaccine; however, we cannot assume that because of these safety measures, bars and restaurants can go back to “normal.” According to the New York Times’ interactive COVID-19 graphs, as of Feb. 7, Delaware still has an average of 274 new cases reported daily. Furthermore, with COVID-19 variations running rampant throughout the United States, now, more than ever, seems like a time to remain as cautious as possible.
Rather than advocating for the complete shutdown of the bars and restaurants on Main Street — many of them are local businesses that would suffer if shut down — we propose that bars stay open at 25 to 30% capacity.
Socialization cannot be stopped; it is healthy and normal for others to want to socialize with friends, neighbors and relatives. However, there are ways to meet these needs that still take the current pandemic into consideration.
It should also be noted that these regulations we propose are not only for the benefit of bar and restaurant goers, they are also for the benefit of restaurant workers. Restaurant workers do not ask to be potentially exposed to COVID-19; they have to maintain their job to pay bills and survive. By decreasing the operational capacity of the bars and restaurants, the Delaware government would not only be protecting restaurant goers but the essential workers behind the food and drinks that they consume.
Restaurants on Main Street have not been neglecting their duty to keep everyone safe. Homegrown Cafe is a particularly good example of a restaurant that has taken COVID-19 safety measures to heart. There are giant plexiglass shields separating each table, as well as between chairs in the bar area. The separation of the bar area is something that no other Main Street restaurant has done. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such physical barriers are effective in stopping the spread of coronavirus. Other bars on Main Street — like Klondike Kate’s, Arena’s Deli and Bar, Deer Park Tavern, Grottos and Santa Fe Mexican Grill — have safety measures; however, none are as comprehensive as those seen at Homegrown Cafe.
While these safety recommendations — such as plexiglass dividers and sanitizing tables after every use — are commendable, temperature checks and symptom checks would be a great way to stop the spread of COVID-19. Temperature and symptom checks typically occur in tattoo shops, doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices, etc., and would not be out of place in a restaurant. A simple questionnaire or a five-second temperature check could ensure that everyone entering the restaurant is currently healthy, thereby stopping the spread of COVID-19.
No matter what, people are going to interact with others. However, there is a way to interact and enjoy the perks of bars and restaurants safely. At The Review, we advocate for tighter regulations to protect both essential workers and the customers they serve.
The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Bianca Thiruchittampalam. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.