Patrons glad to return to restaurants as limited indoor dining begins

On Monday, the next phase of reopening began as restaurants could allow in-person dining, with restrictions.

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) — Last week, restaurants in South Carolina were able to open for outdoor dining , as long as they followed certain guidelines. On Monday, the next phase of reopening began as restaurants could allow in-person dining, with restrictions.

“It’s our priority as a restaurant industry, to make sure that all of our customers and our employees are safe,” said Douglas OFlaherty, Vice President of thte South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (SCRLA).

“Feels good to be back out, and be able to come to a restaurant and sit down and eat on the inside, not go through the drive-thru,” said Ken Byrd, who was eating at a local Lizard’s Thicket.

Per the guidelines, restaurants can allow up to 50% of their max capacity. All tables also have to be at least 6 to 8 ft apart to allow for social distancing.

“So a restaurant that would have built-in booths or built-in tables might have a sign on it that’ll say that it’s closed. Or some operators are choosing to actually remove the tables,” said OFlaherty.

Customers should also make sure they’re healthy before they even decide to dine out.

“First and foremost, is the self-screening. Making sure that they don’t have signs or symptoms of the COVID-19,” said OFlaherty.

They can also expect staff to follow guidelines requiring extra cleaning and precautions.

“I’ve been watching them wiping stuff down and cleaning up. I’ve been sitting here observing cause I wanted to make sure, and they’ve been doing a good job,” said Lizard’s Thicket patron Cathy Byrd.

“All of our staff is wearing gloves and masks, and we have bottles everywhere, everything gets wiped every time somebody leaves,” said Alexis Garret, a staff member at Lizard’s Thicket.

OFlaherty said the past week of outdoor dining was a success. It’s a learning curve, and restaurants will need to continue adjusting with the latest guidelines.

“We had those that complied with the guidance very, very well and operated efficiently and had no issues and no problems, all the way down to the complete opposite. To where maybe they didn’t quite understand the guidelines and they needed a little additional education,” said OFlaherty.

Staff and customers are in this together, as South Carolina continues to slowly reopen.

“We’re all learning. And so it’s going to be a little bit of a frustration point for both the restaurateur and the consumer as we figure out this new norm,” said OFlaherty.

“I was a little eerie myself, I wanted to be careful. But it feels good to me, it feels like it’s okay now,” said Cathy.

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