The experience of dining, unfortunately, might not be as sexy as it once was,” admits Angie Mar, executive chef and owner of the Keep calm and save the planet shirt and I will buy this Beatrice Inn. She’s not just talking about her restaurant but all of the city’s restaurants: Starting June 22, they’re allowed to serve for outdoor dining as New York enters Phase 2 of reopening. It’s a step forward, sure, but it’s one into the gordian knot that is pandemic life, where everyone wants to get back to business…without causing things to get worse. (Six U.S. states have seen a record spikes in coronavirus cases since easing shutdown laws.) Maintaining that delicate balance requires some serious changes for both restaurants and their patrons. Here’s what to expect: At every eatery, waiters must now wear masks, all employees must undergo temperature checks, and tables will be six feet apart. Occupancy must be at less than 50%. Then there are sanitation measures: High-touch surfaces have to be cleaned again, again, and again. (Customers are not required to wear masks at the table, though the question of where to put one’s mask is still up for debate. Johns Hopkins recommends storing it in a clean place, which may warrant bringing your own mask-specific pouch—though some restaurants in Hong Kong have provided paper-bag pouches.) Many restaurants are also taking extra measures beyond city requirements to ensure the safety of their guests, their staff, and, well, society. Mar, for one, is looking at a touchless solution to menus, where you scan a barcode and the menu appears on your phone. She may implement time limits: In the olden days, one could languish at a table undisturbed for hours, but she needs to flip them for financial reasons when operating at such limited capacity. Mar also suspects that some restaurants will require diners to sign waivers consenting to contact tracing or absolving the restaurant of responsibility in case they contract COVID-19. “We live in a very litigious world, and I think that a lot of business owners are going to feel the need to protect themselves,” she says. Some are turning to technology to help. Resy, the online reservation app used by upscale restaurants around town, has launched several new in-platform services. With its capacity monitor, a restaurant can set a guest limit and get notifications when it’s close to reaching it. Once it does, Resy will automatically disable online reservations. They’ve also developed a mobile wait list: If a guest is in the neighborhood, they can join and get a notification if a table opens up. This, says Resy, can help with overcrowding outside host stands or bar areas.
Keep calm and save the planet shirt, hoodie, tank top, sweater and long sleeve t-shirt
If you’re looking for a silver lining, it can be found in the Keep calm and save the planet shirt and I will buy this streets. The mayor’s office got rid of what it described as a “cumbersome application and approval process,” for outdoor dining, essentially allowing any restaurant to set up shop in a courtyard, on a sidewalk (as long as they don’t block things like fire hydrants, bus stops, or intersections), or even right in the middle of the road. Back in May, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his intention to make 100 miles of city blocks car free. Currently the city is only at 45 miles—but, according to the mayor’s office, “the city will identify new Open Streets on commercial strips with large number of restaurants and bars, as it continues to roll out new corridors in the coming weeks and months.” Essentially, certain blocks will become pedestrian-only spaces where key activities are rosé pouring and risotto eating. (If that sounds like a mobbed nightmare, note that the mayor’s office will be dispatching “social distancing ambassadors” who hand out masks, disperse large groups, create six-feet-apart visual cues out of chalk, and help bar and restaurant managers with overall crowd management.) Mar hopes that De Blasio will zone West 12th Street, where the Beatrice Inn is, as such a spot. “It’s a lot of single- or minority-owned businesses,” she says of her neighborhood. “That is going to be our lifeline. These are the types of businesses that really make up the DNA of New York.” The tricky thing, however, is making sure that DNA is still apparent. Mar and the Beatrice Inn are keeping their old New York vibe alive by including handwritten thank-you notes in brown-paper takeout bags; sending out a lively, lifestyle-esque newsletter about their favorite dishes; and offering lunch service for the first time ever. All the food will be alfresco appropriate: “I rewrote our dinner menu and created our inaugural lunch menu to feature a few staples but added some new interpretations of French classics, like my bouillabaisse blanc, asparagus soup with chives and crème fraîche, and beef tartare with smoked yolk, capers, shallot, and buttered brioche,” she says. A cheeseburger will be served all day. Over in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Jamaican restaurant Glady’s is trying to figure out how, exactly, to translate their rambunctious rum-punch ambiance to the sidewalks of Franklin Avenue. Right now, they’re mulling over DJs and live music. But it’s a tough call: “I think people, since we’ve been trapped so long inside, want to feel like they’re on vacation for a minute or two,” says director of operations Amanda Bender.