Restaurant owners in Geary County were told Friday they can open their businesses on Monday but must adhere to social distancing guidelines. The county decision came on the heals of Gov. Laura Kelly’s Executive Orders 20-28 and 20-29 signed Thursday, which allows a gradual opening of the state.
“We are going to open up our restaurants in conjunction with the governor’s orders,” said Tammy Von Busch, Geary County Health Department director.
However, Geary County is putting a restriction on self-service, which does not appear in the order.
“No self-service food or self-service drink in any of the gas stations or in any of the restaurants — no buffets,” Von Busch said. “We are going to be a little more restrictive on that because of the high risk of people touching stuff.”
Whether a restaurant opens or not is at the discretion of the business owner.
Mary Sanders has owned Stacy’s Restaurant for more than 50 years. She has seen her share of ups and downs as troops have come and gone from Fort Riley. She has experienced slow periods intermingled with times when tables filled as soon as they emptied.
She has never had to close the doors. Sanders has elected to keep them shut for at least another week, she said Saturday morning.
“I just feel like it is a little bit too early,” she said. “I don’t feel safe doing it.”
To adjust business under the shutdown order Stacy’s went to carry-out service four days a week, which she will continue. Customers can go on Facebook to see the menu, call in their order and go pick it up Thursday through Sunday. When they get there, they can wait at the picnic table she set up outside or wait in their car and someone will bring their order to them. But moving forward, she has no idea what is in store.
When she does open the doors and allow people to be seated — will they want to, she wondered.
“I think people are still going to be afraid to get out in public,” she said.
She isn’t the only restaurant owner who feels that way. Leslie Thomas, owner of Thomas’s Taste of Chicago, also went to carry out and uses Diner Dash for delivery and intends to keep it that way for a while longer.
He has had his business for just over three years. While he had tried to anticipate every pitfall that could hurt an entrepreneur in their first few years, a worldwide pandemic had never crossed his mind. While he would like to invite people back in, he is hesitant.
“I think we’re opening up too soon,” Thomas said. “I’d rather be safe than sorry. Safety first — I’m not sure I’m going to open my dining area yet.”
Although he has no intention of advertising that the tables are open, if a small group comes in, he can be flexible about letting them stay if they want to, he said. Otherwise they are still invited to check out his menu online and call in an order.
Other restaurants in the area plan on making the adjustments needed to comply with state and local orders.
At Tyme Out Steakhouse owner Ty Glessner had fired up the kitchen and began offering carryout when the dining area was shut down. In preparation of welcoming diners back in, he has made some adjustments.
“We’ve added some seating outside,” he said. “We made an outdoor patio to help out if we are limited to (how many people can be) inside. People can sit outside and eat.”
Inside he has every other both marked off to ensure compliance with the six-foot distancing rule. At some of the booths, partitions have been installed.
The governor’s order requires restaurants to “maintain six feet of distance between customers or groups of customers.
“Restaurants and dining establishments may meet this requirement by using physical barriers to prevent virus spread between seated customers of groups of seated customers.”
In addition to meeting those requirements Glessner set up several hand sanitizing stations within easy reach of the customer.
“Everybody can clean their hands without having to hardly move 10 feet from where they’re sitting,” he said. “If they want to get up and clean their hands when they come in the door, I have a little station set up with paper towels and hand sanitizer.”
Customers who would like to enjoy a Tyme Out meal, but aren’t comfortable with dining in, can still order carry out. The menu is online.
Every restaurant has the option to open or remain closed. Patrons should check the establishments’ Facebook page or website, or call for more information.