Shelby County restaurants asked to help with contact tracing

Shelby County restaurants asked to help with contact tracing

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Your next restaurant experience in Shelby County will look different in the coming days.

Establishments now have to keep a record of your visit -- even where you sit!

The simple question of “how many are in your party” won’t be the only thing you’ll be asked when you walk through the door of a Shelby County restaurant.

“It sounds like we have to ask everyone for their names and numbers and keep track of where they’re sitting,” said Jeff Zepatos, owner of The Arcade Restaurant.

In a new health directive released Tuesday, the Shelby County Health Department put new restrictions on bars and restaurants.

Restaurants can stay open -- but only until 10 p.m.

The directive also asks them to “develop a plan on how to communicate with customers/patrons if they are exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19.”

For example, restaurants must maintain seating charts for 21 days to assist with contact tracing.

“I think it’s really helpful because if one person gets it then we’ll know who comes here on the same day, during the same time frame,” said Sophie Lin, owner of Saltwater Crab.

Ernie Mellor, president of the Memphis Restaurant Association, says this part of the health directive was unexpected but he members of the association will do their best to follow it.

Wednesday, restaurants were brainstorming how it could work.

“We’ll set up a sign in sheet and whoever comes in has to sign up,” said Lin.

“We’re actually having training this afternoon. We’re going to go through our system, make sure everyone is up to date on how to show properly where somebody has sat,” said

This kind of record keeping is for all businesses where there is close contact between people, like hair and nail salons.

The health directive also orders all bars to close starting Wednesday, defining bars as businesses that receive 50 percent or less of its revenue from food.

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