BY JIM LOCKWOOD
The menu for restaurants reopening Friday with outside dining will include limited seating, social distancing, disposable utensils, condiment packets and masks worn everywhere except at tables.
Many restaurants are preparing for Lackawanna County’s transition from red to yellow Friday, when they can offer food to patrons outside.
It won’t be as simple as serving customers outdoors the way it was done before COVID-19. The new reality comes with new rules.
“We cannot be exactly as we were,” Maiolatesi Wine Cellars in Scott Twp. posted on social media. “There are a lot of restrictions that we have to — and that you (customers) have to — abide by.”
For example, the winery will require reservations for table service and walk-ins will only be allowed if table seating is available. Once tables are set in place for the required social distancing, they will not be moved “under any circumstance,” according to a lengthy list of operating procedures the winery has created for employees and patrons to follow.
Customers who arrive early will have to wait in their vehicles until their reservation times. Customers must wear masks when entering, exiting and getting up from tables to use restrooms. Seating will be a maximum of six people per table.
“Everyone calling with reservations has been understanding,” owner Sal Maiolatesi said. “We’re going to see what happens this weekend. It should be interesting.”
All hands on deck
Cooper’s Seafood House in Scranton, which has been offering takeouts, will close Thursday for staff training and to prepare for “dock dining” that will begin Friday at 11 a.m., when both lower and upper outdoor decks will open.
“It’s time to come out of your shell,” the seafood restaurant’s website tells customers. “Please bear with us as we adjust to the new rules and regulations that have been set.”
“We cleaned it (the decks) all out. We distanced the tables all out. We power-washed everything,” co-owner Jack Cooper said in a phone interview.
Eden — A Vegan Cafe, with locations in both Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, also has held on with takeouts and deliveries, said owner Christian Pilosi. The cafe at 344 Adams Ave. in Scranton previously offered sidewalk seating, but now must account for social distancing, he said. The Wilkes-Barre location at 134 S. Main St. opened last fall and outdoor dining there will be new.
“We’re working on figuring out exactly how to set up some socially distant outdoor dining at both shops,” the cafe posted on social media.
Scranton plans to make it easier for restaurants and other retail businesses to conduct sidewalk operations. City council, at its weekly remote meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m., will consider emergency legislation from Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti to cut red tape required for sidewalk seating at eateries or sidewalk sales at retailers. Currently, establishments must submit detailed plans and drawings to the city requesting permission for sidewalk operations. The administration then reviews the plans and makes a recommendation, which goes to council in legislation that takes at least three weeks to enact.
Under the proposed changes, establishments would only have to contact the city to inform it that the establishment will now operate on a sidewalk in front of the business, Cognetti said Tuesday.
Under the Governor’s Process to Reopen Pennsylvania, violations of yellow-phase requirements would be enforced by state agencies.
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