By Maclaine Willett, assistant news editor
During the covid-19 pandemic, many businesses, including restaurants, have had to completely readjust to the new system put in place. But, the reopening process is now approaching which means that along with retail and other businesses, restaurants are able to begin reopening in phases as well. This is an exciting new chapter for the residents of Nantucket who haven’t been able to enjoy the usual luxuries of the island’s many delicious restaurants.
It is also very important for these businesses because for some, it may be difficult to remain in operation when there were no means of profit in the beginning of the pandemic. So even if the reopening may be slow and this new normal may be extremely different from what our community is used to, it is a necessary adjustment when regarding the health of our community members. As for the specifics, the restaurants on Nantucket are now allowed to have customers in outdoor seating areas during Phase 2 of the reopening, and this may advance in the second step of this phase. There are some restrictions that the restaurants must follow, including the fact that all tables must be six feet away from each other. Additionally, seated groups can not exceed six people at a single table.
For some restaurants, like the Faregrounds, the outdoor seating arrangement works well for their initial building and its setup. As one of the owners, Kim Puder states, the original take-out option was a “small portion” of their business. So, this new availability with the outdoor seating is a new opportunity for more customers to come and enjoy the food. The Faregrounds has many tables available in some of their parking lot spaces in the front and back, and they also have a large deck to allow customers to sit. The tables, as per the guidelines set by the state, are all six feet apart. Regarding other precautions, every thirty minutes the staff at Faregrounds, and all other restaurants also, must wipe down the bathrooms, wait stations, and the hostess station. In order to make sure that all precautions are accounted for, Puder states that “we have a health survey that the staff takes everyday,” which ensures further safety.
With the question about the indoor seating and when that opens up further, Puder states that, “When it opens up inside, it’ll probably be 25-50 percent capacity,” which is a guideline that was also provided by the state for that phase of reopening. As of now though, the outdoor seating at Faregrounds is a convenient and safe set-up for dining in an alternative way to the takeout system that so many people have had to adjust to. Although it may not be the equivalent to dining in, Kim Puder and the staff at Faregrounds have a great outdoor seating arrangement.
Another popular restaurant on the island, the Seagrille, has also been faced with the difficulties of reopening a restaurant at a time like this. In order to keep everyone safe, the Seagrille manager Kari Lindsay states that they are focused on “the state protocol with signage, appropriate face masks, sanitizer everywhere, and six feet apart for tables.” The Seagrille has been doing takeout during the time period it has been allowed, but it’s a challenge for this particular restaurant. As Lindsay states, “People want to pay for the experience, they want to come, get a drink, and have the social interaction.” This provides an insight to the challenge restaurants, like the Seagrille, are facing when it comes to takeout.
Regarding outdoor seating, the Seagrille staff are waiting to hear from health officials if their front patio is considered outdoor. If so, they plan on opening that portion and separating the tables by six feet for outdoor dining. As of whether or not the patio will be separated solely by six feet or if there will be a capacity rule as well is unknown to Lindsay yet, but that information will hopefully be provided in due time.
The Faregrounds and the Seagrille, as well as many other restaurants on the island, have been facing many difficulties and decisions due to the covid-19 pandemic. The question of whether or not to provide outdoor seating is available to restaurants, but some may not be equipped for that range of business. As restaurants here begin to reopen, they must follow strict guidelines to ensure the safety of the customers and themselves in order to be in business and prevent the spread of the virus. Precautions have been mentioned by these two owners of the Seagrille and Faregrounds that provide a safe way to dine either in outdoor seating space or takeout. As the reopening process continues, residents of Nantucket can hope to see more restaurants returning to business slowly and safely.