By: Todd Eastman, Conway Daily Sun
CONWAY — Too quick or not soon enough?
That is the question, as New Hampshire gradually reopens businesses that had to shut down by state decree due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retail stores, hair salons, drive-in theaters and private golf courses were allowed to reopen with restrictions Monday under Gov. Chris Sununu’s “Stay at Home 2.0” order.
Now restaurants will get their turn, too, OK’d for outdoor dining as of May 18, though with restrictions.
In addition to requiring hand sanitizer, social distancing and masks for servers as well as customers (when they enter or leave or get up to use the restroom), restaurants also are limited to seating only diners who have made reservations.
That’s intended to prevent patrons from congregating in waiting areas. Diners are required to remain at least 6 feet apart from diners at another table. No more than six people are allowed at a table.
Bar seating areas will remain closed, and indoor dining is still prohibited (though that could change in nearby Oxford, County, Maine, as it is one of the 12 rural counties on which Gov. Janet Mills has eased restrictions in terms of indoor dining).
Though several local restaurants are taking a wait-and-see attitude in terms of how these next few weeks shake out, others are already gearing up to add outdoor seating.
Terry O’Brien, co-owner and general manager of the Red Parka Steakhouse and Pub in Glen (and daughter of late Valley Originals founder Dewey Mark and restaurant co-founder Jean Melczarek), said the crew is at work to open the restaurant’s patio for Monday’s start.
They temporarily closed in March but restarted takeout service this past week and also are going to offer “grill bags” for patrons to take home to cook.
“In addition to our takeout, we’re going to start doing the outdoor dining on our patio Monday,” said O’Brien. “We will lose a little seating out there (due to the social distancing guidelines of 6 feet), but I have bought a new mosquito eater, and we’ve got the bug repellent candles put on tables. We’ve also got heaters under the awnings.”
O’Brien, a former president of the N.H. Lodging and Restaurant Association, said she misses the old days. But they are persevering.
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