‘We Are Back Open:' Vt. Restaurants Seating Customers Indoors Again

Monday was day one of indoor dining following COVID-19 closures, but eateries have limits placed on them

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Across Vermont Monday, there were signs of a significant step in the state's cautious reopening process following the closures forced by COVID-19.

Monday was day one of indoor dining at restaurants — more than two weeks after outdoor dining resumed.

"We are back open," beamed Kim Smith, the manager of Maple City Diner in St. Albans. "It makes me happy to be able to come back to work and know that I'm going to see a lot of our regulars again."

To start, state rules around preventing the spread of the virus mean businesses are kept to a quarter of their normal capacity, and they have to space people far apart.

Eateries have gone to one-time-use paper menus only, and Smith said at the diner, there are no shared condiments on the tables — those now come on the sides of plates.

"It's been a long time since being able to sit inside in a restaurant," Maple City Diner regular Michael DesLauriers said. "It's kind of nice to get back to the old routine a little bit."

There was similar enthusiasm down the road at Tim's Place, which thanked customers for their support through placing takeout orders the past few months.

"We're just excited to keep moving on and opening up that dining room," said Arthur Kougias, the owner of Tim's Place.

As all Vermont restaurants have been directed to do by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Tim's Place is keeping a customer log in case disease contact tracers need to track anyone down.

"We haven't been out to eat in three, four months, so this is a treat," customer Dennis Rock said of being able to sit inside at Tim's Place.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, acknowledged Friday he knows restaurants can't make it on 25% of their seating.

"We still have a very long way to go," the governor said ahead of Monday's reopening. "But we've got to start somewhere, and we'll be able to build on this if the numbers move in the right direction."

Scott added that he's also letting individual municipalities put their own limits on restaurants if a local COVID-19 cluster erupts.

As for Maple City Diner, it's looking forward to slowly and safely rebuilding its business.

"It's only uphill," Smith said, smiling.

According to sector-specific guidance published by ACCD, the state is encouraging customers to wear cloth face coverings in restaurants while they wait for their food to arrive.

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