stay at home order

Dining-In Could Change When Restaurants Reopen

NBC 7 Responds looked at how eating at a restaurant could be different when the stay-at-home order is lifted

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Right now, restaurants are only open for for take-out and delivery orders. It's been more than a month since they closed their dining rooms, which may look different when they reopen.

"Good things happen at restaurants," Cesarina's owner Niccolo Angius told NBC 7' Responds. "I'm sure people want to go back to enjoying those moments."

Cesarina has been open in Point Loma for a year and a half, and is currently only offering take-out and delivery. Angius said he heard rumors of possible changes to dining rooms.

"[It could be] servers wearing masks and gloves," Angius said. "They talk about plexiglass screens between tables -- but I don't how much of that is real."

One of the biggest issues facing the industry is the uncertainty. Californai Gov. Gavin Newsom recently said there was still no clear date to lift the stay-at-home order, which is why there are no clear guidelines on how to reopen a restaurant.

"I would love for the county or government, whoever is in charge, to give us the correct guidelines," Angius said.

In other states, that guidance is coming from statewide restaurant associations. NBC 7's sister station in Boston was told that the Massachusetts Restaurant Association recommends limiting the time guests spend in the dining room, not booking large groups of people, and closing self-service food stations like buffets or salad bars.

NBC 7 Responds reached out to the California Restaurant Association to see if they had any reopening guidelines and was told that there are no public guidelines yet because there is no clear date for restaurants to reopen -- and that health guidelines will likely differ from county to county.

"We will send our members guidance and resources once they are closer to reopening," a CRA spokesperson said via email.

Angus is already planning to reduce the number of people inside his restaurant.

"We're going to have to reduce our capacity to 30 or 35 percent of what we had before," Angius said. "[So] in order for small businesses to survive, we have to turn those tables quicker to try to keep some of the volume we were making before."

Other possible changes affected by limiting the number of people inside at one time include extending the hours of the restaurant and, possibly, senior-only hours. Angius said he hopes that, whatever the guidelines are, it will still feel like patrons are eating at a restaurant.

"I see restaurants as a place where you can feel comfortable and happy," Angius said. "You don't want to have dinner in a hospital."

Angius' main goal: Keeping his entire staff of 49 employees. He said that Cesarina has reduced the number of hours each of his employees work but that the restaurant has remained busy on nights and weekends.

"Restaurants are made by people, and if they lose their valuable people, they lose their soul," Angius said. "We feel pretty lucky to still be here and supported by the community."

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