You’ve got to feel for the owners of restaurants. After being shut down by the COVID-19 epidemic, they were finally able to open with limited capacity, only to have dining hours curtailed by curfews after the looting. Hopefully by the time you read this that situation will have quieted down.

Here’s what restaurants are doing to make it safer for you to dine out again. All dining establishments must follow the Broward County guidelines (many of which were in effect before the pandemic);

  • Employees must wash their hands and use facial coverings (includes workers in direct contact with customers as well as employees who prepare and handle food).
  • Food preparers are encouraged to wear gloves.
  • Employees with symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough or shortness of breath, will be immediately sent home.
  • Currently dining establishments can operate at 50% capacity.
  • All tables and chairs, whether indoor or outdoor, should be at least 6 feet apart between parties.
  • Bar counters should remain closed.
  • Groups need to be capped at 10 people (groups may be smaller based upon restaurant capacity).
  • Hand sanitizer must be readily available.
  • Restaurants should provide disposable menus or digital menus that are sanitized after each use.
  • Touchless payment options are encouraged.
  • Restaurants should provide physical guides, using tape on floors or sidewalks, to ensure that customers remain at least 6 feet apart when standing in line.
  • Customers must wait in their cars or away from the establishment entrance while waiting for a table or to pick up food.
  • To avoid the use of buzzers, patrons should be alerted by phone when their table or food is ready.
  • Buffets and salad bars must remain closed.
  • Self-service drink stations must be washed and sanitized frequently.

And that’s just the tip of the guidelines iceberg folks.

Of course, not all places are following these orders. On a recent visit to Kelly’s Landing to pick up and order to go, I encountered at least two dozen customers congregating around the front door, only about half of which were wearing masks. Inside, folks were standing in groups waiting to be seated. There were no marks on the floor.

I spent a recent afternoon checking around town to see how various restaurants are adapting to the new dining guidelines. Most of the places are following the CDC and Broward County’s guidelines and seating at 50% of capacity (although that percentage may rise to 75% after a trial period), with tables spaced widely apart, whether indoor or outdoor. Here are some of the responses I received:

  • Alibi/Monkey Bar: table service only
  • Alchemist: outdoor dining
  • Andrews Diner: open with limited seating indoors and a new outdoor dining area
  • Bombay Café: table service, lunch specials, no buffet
  • Burgers & Beers: limited indoor and outdoor dining
  • Candela: open for indoor dining noon-8:30 M-F, 3-10 weekends
  • Courtyard: indoor and courtyard dining
  • J Marks: indoor, outdoor, bar dining is currently closed
  • New York Grilled Cheese: limited indoor and outdoor dining
  • Pita Pride: indoor and outdoor dining at limited capacity
  • Rosie’s: indoor and outside dining
  • Stork’s: indoor and outdoor dining
  • Tee Jay: indoor and outdoor dining
  • Tropics: indoor and outdoor dining
  • Voo La Voo: outdoor and limited indoor dining, regular hours

Many of these places continue to offer pick-up and takeout as well. This list includes only those places that responded in time for our deadline.

Of course, you shouldn’t rely completely upon the restaurants to keep you and others safe, you need to do your part. The CDC and the Florida Department of Health recommend wearing masks in public, monitoring your symptoms at home and avoiding going out if you aren’t feeling well.

Other steps you can take when dining out include wiping down your credit card with a sanitizing wipe after each use; applying hand sanitizer often; using your phone to look at the restaurant’s menu (unless they are using disposable single-use menus); after sanitizing your hands, avoid resting them on chairs or booth seating; if outdoor seating is not an option, make sure the restaurant you’ve chosen is at least making an effort to circulate clean air by leaving windows or doors open; and remember to bring a resealable bag to store your mask safely while it’s off.

It may seem like a lot of effort, but for the time being, this is the new normal.