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Expect This One Major Change When Restaurants Reopen

Get ready for a very different dining out experience.

One of the biggest hurdles bars and restaurants need to overcome in order to start thriving again is the limited capacity enforced by social distancing guidelines. Businesses in the service industry have had some of the strictest rules for social distancing imposed on them, and reopenings are seeing such businesses limited to 25 to 50 percent of their original capacity. As Toby Cecchini, owner of several bars in Brooklyn, wrote in a recent opinion piece for The New York Times, this is effectively a death sentence for many businesses in his industry. Pair that with customers who may be more reluctant than ever to sit in a closed indoor space with strangers, and the chances of the restaurant industry going back to normal any time soon are slim to none. For many owners, such a limited reopening may not even be worth it.

At least a partial solution to this problem could be coming in the form of al fresco dining, our dining outdoors, which is a common sight in many European cities. In order to help the local economies on the long road to recovery, cities across the nation have started issuing expedited permits for restaurants to take over public spaces like patios, in order to make up for some of their lost indoor capacity.

Restrictions and permits vary from state to state. In Illinois, restaurants will actually be limited to outdoor seating only, while in New Hampshire, restaurants have gotten a green light to use patios, lawns, parking lots, and sidewalks as outdoor seating areas.

Parking lots are another quick solution that could dramatically increase the restaurants' seating capacity. The mayor of Atlanta suburb of Brookhaven has given restaurants a 90-day permit to seat their customers in their parking lots.

This is a start, but business owners are yet to see whether these temporary allowances might be extended, and how the customers will respond. Also, the weather could be a big factor in the success of these new strategies. However, the al fresco way of dining will definitely be the closest thing to a new normal once you decide to patronize your local bars and restaurants this summer. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest food and restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Mura Dominko
Mura is a Deputy Editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more
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