THE NEW ABNORMAL: “EAT, DRINK & DON’T BE MERRY”


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There was a time when “Eat, Drink & Be Merry” was a regular part of life. But thanks to political leaders and their strict lockdowns to deal with coronavirus, the new motto is “Eat, Drink & Be Tested.”
As reported in the Associated Press, last week, restaurants in many states have reopened, but with severe restrictions such as: “Staff must wear masks and check customers’ temperatures.” This is not a joke. In a number of areas allowing restaurants to reopen, wait staff must check customers’ temperatures before allowing them to enter.
In New York City, one of the great food capitals of the world, his honor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, stated in a 20 April press conference that reopening businesses, including restaurants, is still in the future, but he said that when NYC does lift restrictions, checking customers’ temperatures “will absolutely have a role to play.”
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has stated that disposable menus and temperature checks will likely become the norm for his state’s eateries.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, one of the first state executives to start loosening lockdown restrictions, established 39 rules all restaurants must adhere to. Among them: only ten customers per 500 square feet.
In a Georgia steak house, the staff not only has to take the temperature of every customer but then has to write it on a large white board visible to all other customers. The restaurant’s general manager noted, “Every customer who’s come in here has thanked us for being open, but unfortunately it was really slow.”
The restrictions didn’t dispel the enthusiasm of the manager of the 87 Waffle House restaurants in Georgia, who said, “A lot of people, I think, want to get back to the new normal which will be social distancing and all that.”
In Anchorage, AK, restaurants, hair salons, and other specified retail businesses were allowed to reopen, but they can only serve up to 25 percent of their full capacity. And only family members can sit together at a table (no friends or business colleagues). That’s not all: every customer’s name and number must be kept in a log and maintained for 30 days for “contact tracing.”
In New York City, one of the great food capitals of the world, his honor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, stated in a 20 April press conference that reopening businesses, including restaurants, is still in the future, but he said that when NYC does lift restrictions, checking customers’ temperatures “will absolutely have a role to play.”
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has stated that disposable menus and temperature checks will likely become the norm for his state’s eateries.
A 17-page document from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) details recommended safety precautions as countries reopen from severe lockdowns. The document suggests restaurants use only single-use condiments such as ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, put in “sneeze guards”/plastic shields at all cash registers, and eliminate all salad bars and buffets.
At least a few restauranteurs have drawn on a line on the insanity facing their businesses.
In Maine, the Red Maple Inn posted a message on Facebook that “enough is enough” and promoted their reopening despite Maine Governor Janet Mills’ shutdown order. A handful of other Maine eateries also challenged the governor and reopened over the past weekend.
But the state fought back. Last Friday, the Sunday River Brewing Company opened against orders and hundreds showed up to support the owners. State liquor inspectors then revoked the Sunday River Brewing Company’s food and liquor licenses, closing the popular spot.
In Italy, restaurant owners aren’t as complacent as in the U.S. About 75,000 owners have joined together to voice their anger over proposed government restrictions on their operations.
Thousands of protesters showed up on 28 April to state a “mass reopening” in defiance of government edicts under the banner “Risorgiamo Italia” (“Italy Rises Again”). At 9 p.m. that evening, food businesses turned on lights and some set up a table and pantomimed the actions of serving a customer in order to let the public know how the government is making it almost impossible for them to continue running at a profit.
The Italian government has set 1 June as the date when restaurants, trattorias, clubs, and bars can reopen for in-house seating (now they can only provide takeout), but when they reopen their doors, food establishments must maintain expanded social distancing rules and add plexiglass dividers and other barriers throughout dining and drinking areas.
Most of Italy’s restaurants and cafes are family-run. The new restrictions could lead to the permanent closing down of at least half of these establishments. Owners point out that while they will still have high operating costs, the government expects them to operate at around 30 percent of their usual capacity based on the new restrictions.
In addition to the economic catastrophe this would cause, with restaurants, trattorias, clubs, and bars employing 1.5 million people and generating some 87 billion euros in revenues, it will likely kill off one of the basic fabrics of Italian cultural life.
Buon appetito.
TREND FORECAST: Due to the cost of purchasing food and high operating expenses, quality restaurants work on tight margins even in the best of times. With the long list of new, government-imposed restrictions, many restaurants will continue to suffer even when allowed to open… and many will never reopen.
This Drink is on the House
As if restaurant owners and employees don’t have enough problems with the severe restrictions, the majority that are still ordered to be shut down are facing what was a likely scenario from the start: in the U.S., a growing number of people are breaking into deserted bars and restaurants to steal liquor.
Although crime rates have dropped overall, burglaries and break-ins are escalating. From New Haven to San Francisco, reports keep coming in of restaurants being vandalized. Since New York City was locked down, burglaries have almost doubled. More than 140 of those were in restaurants.

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