Gov. McMaster allows indoor dining with limited capacity at SC restaurants

Restaurants can only have a maximum of 50% of their posted occupancy inside at one time

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) announced Friday that restaurants across the state can start offering indoor dining starting on Monday, but they can only have a small number of customers inside at one time.

Under these new guidelines, which were compiled by “accelerateSC” with suggestions from the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, restaurants can only seat 50% of their posted occupancy at one time.

This comes one week after Gov. McMaster announced restaurants could start offering outdoor dining in addition to curbside and takeout service. That executive order took effect Monday.

Just a week after opening up for outdoor dining, Steve Cook with Saluda’s in Five Points says his restaurant has already served 300 guests.

“Folks I talk to say you can reopen, but the demand is not there. That is not true. The demand is there, and it’s increasing everyday,” Cook said.

So many people have come to Five Points to eat in the last few days, that Jake’s Bar and Grill closed their doors early Monday due to a large crowd forming outside their doors.

Publico Kitchen and Tap also announced their decision to close for a couple of weeks to find ways to “continue to be a safe, clean, fun place for all of us to meet.”

Dr. Linda Bell, the State Epidemiologist for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), said it’s important for people in any situation to put their health front and center.

“Regardless of the businesses that are open and activities that are allowed in public, people must continue practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, and good hygiene. Otherwise, they put themselves at risk, and they put the rest of us at risk,” Dr. Bell said.

Some of the guidelines restaurants are suggested to follow include hand sanitizer stations at the front, tables spaced out 6 to 8 feet, and no condiments on the tables.

Even with these changes, Kristian Niemi, the owner of Bourbon in Columbia and Black Rooster in West Columbia, told the Resilient Midlands Economic Recovery Task Force Friday it may be a while before he opens his doors back up.

“My restaurants probably won’t reopen until we can feel we’re at about 75% capacity. The numbers just don’t seem to work for us anything below that,” Niemi said.

When talking about large crowds that could come to restaurants, Gov. McMaster says everyone should use common sense.

“Everyone is going to be accountable for their own conduct, and that’s why we’re urging the restaurants to know their clientele, which they do, and understand the dangers that are posed when they open their doors to 50%,” Gov. McMaster said.

Gov. McMaster also announced all restrictions on boats will be lifted starting Monday, but he says officers still can arrest people if they are posing a threat to public health. 

As of Friday, DHEC says 7,367 people in South Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 320 people dying from the virus statewide.

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