With May 11 set as the date for restaurants to begin reopening their facilities with some limitations, restaurant owners are rearranging their dining areas to accommodate these new rules.
Restaurants may only have one-third of their total capacity and tables must be 10 feet apart.
Mindy London, co-owner of The Vault 1905 in downtown Van Buren, said they will have 28 seats in their restaurant available on Tuesday, May 12. The entire restaurant has been fogged with a sanitizer to ensure a completely clean facility, she added. She and other staff members are still offering curbside pickup.
The Vault started curbside pickup on March 20. But for the entire month of April they were closed down. On May 12 they plan to reopen. Patrons must also wear face masks when they are not eating or drinking. The Vault will have masks and other protective gear for their employees, as well as daily health checks. Patrons can be denied service if they are not wearing masks.
Some restaurants are not completely comfortable with opening up yet. Stirred, 710 Fayetteville Road in Van Buren, is not opening up completely just yet. Stirred stayed open during the pandemic, with altered operating hours, to do curbside pickup only. Since they are such a small business, changing to one-third capacity doesn’t seem viable said Stirred owner Rebecca Gibbons.
"We are planning, during Phase 1, to return back to our normal operating hours," said Gibbons. She added that the curbside pickup has actually been a fairly good experience for Stirred.
Gibbons said that they felt that it would be terrible, but their Van Buren and Fort Smith customer base has been loyal and has done a great job at adjusting to the new style. Considering that Stirred is a coffee shop, being social is a big part of the store's atmosphere. According to Gibbons, that aspect is sorely missed by the employees, but they know that this is only a temporary thing and they will keep serving their customers as much as they can.
There is a chance that the phases could be reversed given the rates of infections in Arkansas, or it could possibly result in more relaxed rules. Bars, arcades and music venues are still closed.
"This is a significant but cautious step on the path back to normalcy," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said recently. "We will monitor the success of this step, and move to Phase 2 as quickly as we safely can."