CRITTENDEN COUNTY, Ark. (WMC) - A significant but cautious step on the path back to normalcy in Arkansas.
That’s how Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison described his decision to let restaurants reopen their dining rooms starting Monday.
“Restaurants, small businesses have struggled financially and they’ve been out of work," said Hutchinson. “They’re now having to reconfigure their restaurants in a way that is safe.”
The restrictions on dine-in service under this directive include:
- Restaurants must limit the number of customers to one-third of total capacity.
- Tables must be ten feet apart so that diners will be seated six feet away from diners at other tables.
- Each employee who directly interacts with patrons must wear a face mask that completely covers the nose and mouth. Kitchen staff and others are encouraged to wear a mask.
- Each employee must wear gloves. Gloves should be changed between each customer, customer group, or task.
- Management must conduct a daily health screening of all employees before they enter the restaurant. An employee with a cough, sore throat, fever, or shortness of breath must not enter the restaurant.
- Patrons must wear a face covering until the food or drink is served.
- Salad bars, buffets, and other self-serve features will remain closed.
- Groups must be 10 or fewer customers.
- Tables, chairs, salt/pepper shakers, condiment containers, and napkin holders will be cleaned and disinfected after each customer.
- Bars and entertainment operations (such as live music, in-seat gaming devices, or arcades) are prohibited.
- Normal service of alcohol within the restaurant seating area is allowed.
- Restrooms should be disinfected frequently.
- Service may be declined to patrons not wearing masks.
These Phase 1 restrictions will remain in place until Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith determines that they may be relaxed or discontinued.
Restaurants must also screen their staff each day, to ensure they’re healthy enough to work.
“So there’s that part of it that should be self-regulated by the customer, but then you also have the establishment or the restaurant itself that will screen,” said Hutchinson.
Arkansas is also allowing non-urgent dental services to resume on Monday.
Dentists will have to follow strict guidelines to protect patients and staff, including closing the waiting room area and having patients call ahead and wait in their cars.
Hutchinson says state leaders will monitor all businesses and activities that are back open under Phase 1 and will move to Phase 2, as quickly and safely as they can.
State officials say restaurants can decline serving customers who aren’t wearing masks when walking inside.
Bars and entertainment operations—like live music and arcades – are not allowed to open under Phase 1.