Members of San Diego's restaurant industry showed off procedures Monday that local eateries are proposing to keep customers and employees safe once dine-in service is allowed to resume under the state's "stay at home" order.
The strategies were demonstrated at Phil's BBQ in Rancho Bernardo and included creating a one-way-in, one-way-out system, providing signage that instructed customers on dine-in requirements, limiting employees' interaction with customers and providing hand sanitizing stations. Other measures include:
- Spreading dining tables out to allow for 6 feet or more of space between each
- Providing customers with instructions on how to safely dine out. For example, the instructions indicate that face masks must be worn at all times unless eating or drinking
- Having a dedicated sanitization employee who would disinfect "hot spots," areas that customers continually touch
- Limiting interaction between employees and customers by only checking on tables when called, not removing plates from a table until the entire party has left and having customers swipe their own credit cards
- Allowing drink refills to be conducted by employees only and never using the same cup for a refill
- Placing a notecard on tables that says when a table has been disinfected
- Utilizing individually wrapped condiments and silverware
Restaurant owner Phil Pace, joined by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Council Member Mark Kersey, said that his company has kept business as consistent as possible as they switched to take-out-only dining; his eateries have served about 150,000 to-go meals in recent months. But Pace and his employees are ready for the next step.
"I do stress that we're not putting profits over people's lives. We love this business, I love the employees that work for me. We should be able to put them back to work safely. And that is the word -- safely," he said.
Photos: ‘Give SD Control’: Mayor Says San Diego Restaurants Ready for Safe Reopening
Faulconer said the methods proved that the San Diego restaurant industry has a plan in place for a safe reopening.
"This is about a new normal but a new normal that San Diego is ready to achieve, our small businesses are ready to achieve and open up," Faulconer said.
He used the moment to push California Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow regions like San Diego County to reopen at their own pace.
"We are sending a very clear and direct message to Sacramento and to the governor -- Give San Diego the local control to be able to reopen safely," Faulconer said.
The protocols were developed by the San Diego Economic Recovery Advisory Group, a team of civic and business leaders from various industries that was formed to create strategies for a safe reopening of the local economy.
Kersey said the strategies were created with both public health and economic recovery in mind, Kersey said.
"Knowing that it's going to take months if not a year or more to get a vaccine and knowing obviously that testing has to continue, tracing has to continue, we have to switch to the point where we're managing COVID instead of saying that everyone's going to stay locked in their homes until we get a vaccine."
San Diego County has not yet given a timeline for when dine-in eateries may reopen. The county is following the criteria of the federal government's Opening Up America Again while also adhering to the state of California's stay-at-home order.
On Tuesday, local leaders were expected to discuss s proposal for the county to move into the latter half of the state's phase 2 reopening plan, which allows for dine-in eating and looser restrictions on retail. The plan, if passed locally, would need to be approved by the state.
Some local leaders, including Faulconer and County Supervisor Greg Cox, had been critical of the state's reopening plan because it included some metrics that seemed impossible for a jurisdiction as large as San Diego County to meet. One metric would allow a county to move onto phase 2 only if the jurisdiction was able to prove there were no deaths related to the coronavirus in a two-week period.
But on Monday, less than an hour after San Diego restauranteurs presented their reopening strategies to the local media, Newsom announced some modifications to their reopening criteria that could allow about 53 of the 58 counties in the state to move onto phase 2. The criteria for no deaths was eliminated.
Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten said the county does meet the state's new metrics. A plan would be presented at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting that, if approved, can be presented to the state.
Faulconer said he backs the county's proposal but asked for the state to allow for even more leniency past phase 2, asking for the governor to consider San Diego for a "pilot" phase three reopening. The third phase of the state's reopening plan includes barber shops, hair and nail salons.
Newsom said Monday counties could see guidance on phase three reopenings in the coming weeks.