By: Kimberly Houghton, Union Leader Correspondent
With temporary closures because of potential COVID-19 exposure becoming more frequent, restaurants are bracing for a disquieting winter.
Keith Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Taproom in Bedford and Murphy’s Diner in Manchester, said Friday he has serious concerns about the next few months.
“I am extremely worried. Outdoor dining at both my restaurants is what kept us going since April or May,” Murphy said. “Our outdoor tables are always in very high demand, and we were able to keep pace with traditional sales because of that.
“But now that we are moving inside, there is definitely a slump. We still get some business, but it is nowhere near where it is supposed to be or what it has been.”
“Our industry is just going to keep getting smacked if we keep getting called out in the media,” said Tom Boucher, CEO of Great New Hampshire Restaurants, which includes T-Bones, Cactus Jack’s and The Copper Door.
To satisfy state health officials and reassure diners, New Hampshire restaurants recently implemented a sign-in/dine-in policy that allows for easier contact-tracing if a restaurant customer or employee tests positive.
“To be critically honest with you, it has been relatively painless,” Boucher said. “It is working well. We have tablets and are taking a name and number from at least one person in every party.”
He likened the process, which enables the Department of Health and Human Services to contact that one individual if a problem arises, to making reservations, which people are comfortable with.
So far, Boucher said 99% of his diners have complied with the protocol. “Quite frankly, it is for their own safety,” he said.
The policy is preferable to the the alerts the state issues when a restaurant employee or patron tests positive for COVID-19, Boucher said. He called that practice “really unfair,” pointing out the same notifications were not made for cases or potential exposure at gyms, hair salons or grocery stores.
“It really hurts the industry,” Boucher said. “Restaurants are suddenly the bad guys.”
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