With Las Animas County’s health order being adapted to allow for dine-in at restaurants, granted they adhere to established guidelines for reopening, some businesses jumped at the opportunity while others are still feeling everything out. The guidelines issued require a higher level of sanitization and additional tasks for restaurants to help guard against the potential spread of the coronavirus.
For some smaller restaurants like Sita’s Kitchen on Main Street in Trinidad, the extra precautions and guidelines are too much to consider opening up just yet.
“As small as we are and having just two people on staff, we don’t plan to open for dine-in immediately,” said Sita’s Kitchen owner Jessica McCorkle. “There are too many guidelines for us to follow right now; it’s too much. Once the restrictions ease a bit more, we may be able to offer dine-in options or set up tables outside, but at the moment our plan is to continue our carryout, curbside, and delivery orders. Right now we’re happy with that.”
Having a small dining area also was an influence in her decision to continue their carryout and momentarily forego dine-in since part of the guidelines stated that restaurant dining rooms had to cut their capacity by 50 percent.
Even with the guidelines, some restaurants said they are excited to start seeing customers come in to sit down and eat and are pleased that economic wheels are starting to turn again.
“Honestly, just having the guidelines in hand and having more of an idea of what I can do to move forward has given me so much more peace,” said Amanda Littrell, manager of Bob and Earls Café on Highway 12. “The most exciting part is that I actually have something to do again and I think people will be so happy that we are open again. My hope is that they understand this is the reality we have to adapt to in order to go back to some sort of normal. It’s going to take us a while to get back to a packed restaurant.”
The time off gave Littrell time to evaluate sales over the past six months and make some changes she believes will allow the long-standing restaurant to thrive for years to come.
“I’m a glass half full kind of person and I always have been,” said Littrell. “This is absolutely an opportunity and not our demise. This is a constantly changing situation. First week is really going to be a trial and error and see what works and what doesn’t”
Littrell said they plan to open next Wednesday, June 3 and would be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. with pickup and carryout still an option. She also said they plan to start serving breakfast the whole time their open and would start serving lunch at 11 a.m.
While businesses like Bob and Earl’s Café have been around long before the pandemic began, a few like Trinidad Smokehouse’s Main Street location were just beginning to open up. Trinidad Smokehouse owner Brian Main said even with the delay and only doing carryout and delivery, they’ve been happy with how quick their new location has picked up.
“It’s just been overwhelming with the online orders,” said Main. “I get a hundred tickets back there in just over an hour.”
Main said as busy as they’ve been, he’s just starting to get everything in the restaurant set up for dine-in and is hoping to know a precise date for opening the dining room next week.
“Right now I’m trying to set it up for dine-in and when we’re all ready to go I’ll put it out there on Facebook,” said Main. “We’re planning on it possibly by next week, we’re trying to feel it out and get the restaurant ready for it.”
Health Department urges caution
Even though the state and local health departments have eased up on the restrictions that previously closed restaurants, health professionals still recommend that individuals continue to exercise caution and get carryout or pickup if possible as opposed to sitting down.
“I would still be cautious and still do carry out pick-ups as much as possible,” said Kim Gonzales, the director for Las Animas-Huerfano Counties Health Department. “If people want to go and dine, if the restaurant has an outdoor option, that’s better than an indoor option just because there’s an increased air circulation. People should be very cautious that we could have a lot of asymptomatic people walking around that are carrying the virus and spreading it.”
Additionally, masks are still a requirement for restaurants to request their customers wear to avoid potential spread.
“In order to go into a restaurant, it’s actually a requirement from CDPHE for restaurants to request customers wear face coverings when not eating or drinking, for example walking past tables when going to pick up food or going to the restroom,” said Gonzales.
This means that as long as you’re sitting at a table, masks aren’t required to be worn obviously while you eat. But if you get up to go to the restroom or as you are going to your seat or leaving, the health department is saying facemasks need to be worn.
Gonzales said that the health department’s environmental health inspectors would be making rounds to ensure compliance with the guidelines put in place.
With the governor already amending the state health order, Gonzales stated that’s why they’ve amended their county health order to reflect the restaurants and private campgrounds. If the variance were accepted by the state, this would additionally allow churches and gyms to open with reduced capacity so long as requirements are met.