Restaurant owners working to stay in business with mask compliance

Mask restrictions in Shelby County restaurants

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The latest health department directive for restaurants and patrons and masks is more restrictive. And for many very confusing. But the desire to keep restaurants open is enough incentive for some customers to follow the rules.

”It’s safe for the people that work in the restaurants and for the people that are eating in the restaurant for everybody even for yourself,” said Melanie Rodriguez.

The Shelby County Health Department’s latest directive concerning masks and restaurants took effect Monday.

It requires patrons to “wear masks at all times except when actually eating a bite of food or drinking a beverage.” It’s a bit confusing interpreted by some people we talked with that a restaurant patron has to eat a bite then put the mask back on, take a drink, put the mask back on. But the head of the health department Alisa Haushalter clarified saying use common sense.

New directive means capacity cuts for restaurants

You don’t have to take it on and off when you are actually eating. But for some, the directive is hard to swallow.

”I think it’s unreasonable,” said Austin Rowe. “The virus stays in the air up to eight minutes according to the CDC so to take your mask off for 10 seconds and take a drink and put it back on I would still be exposed.”

All of the customers we saw at Alchemy in Cooper-Young were wearing masks at their tables. The manager says the restaurant makes a point of keeping up with new directives and many customers have to be educated. 

”We make a point when they come in, when they sit down, we explain the entire situation to them,” said Alchemy Manager Krystyne Rawls. “And there is an incentive to make sure customers comply. Nobody wants a surprise visit from anybody and for us to get the hammer brought done on us.”

Restaurants also now must operate at 50% capacity instead of 75%. The owners are doing what they can to survive

At The Beauty Shop, the cold weather means people don’t want to eat outside but outside dining gave restaurants more tables. So The Beauty Shop added these plastic enclosures for diners. They will be heated with lighting And supporting restaurants is a goal for many customers with no appetite for the new mask directive.

”I’m going to do what I have to do to support the local businesses,” said Row. “I love Alchemy and I love local restaurants. So I’m going to do what I can do but still think it’s not helping anything.”

Restaurants that do not comply with the new restrictions risk being shut down. The health department may roll back the restrictions when cases of COVID-19 are reduced to a certain level.

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