Customers bellying up to the bar once again in Delaware

Lacie Satterfield mixes a drink at The Green Turtle in Dover on Tuesday as bar seating has returned to Delaware. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Patrons are back on bar stools, happy hours have kicked off once again and bartenders are welcoming back their regulars.

As part of Phase Two of Delaware’s reopening from the shutdown imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19, restaurants have increased capacity to 60% capacity and bar seating has opened. Guests must observe guidelines such as wearing a mask when not in a seat and social distancing from other groups.

The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille in Dover opened its bar area on Monday in accordance with Phase 2. Greene Turtle district manager Jason Hajek said the bar’s regulars were excited to see familiar faces again.

“A lot of our guests are the ones who come in to see their favorite bartender and interact with them,” Mr. Hajek. “We were getting messages the last month saying how excited they were to see this person or that person again. It’s nice guests come in and do that and have some normalcy.”

The Big Chill Surf Cantina in Rehoboth Beach had been closed during the shutdown and opened for the first time in three months on Monday.

“Our normal happy hour crew was ready to go,” said general manager A.J. Borrero. “They were ready to come in and say what’s up to everyone.”

Reservations are no longer required as part of Phase 2. But some establishments, like the Greene Turtle, are encouraging patrons to call ahead or use the app OpenTable in case space is limited due to the 60% capacity rule.

All guests must wear masks when entering and walking around the restaurant or bar. Once a guest is seated, either at a table or at a seat at the bar, they can then take their mask off.

The Starboard Restaurant in Dewey Beach posted a photo on social media encouraging guests to observe all posted guidelines like wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“Let’s keep the positive changes moving forward and have some fun,” it wrote.

Mr. Borrero said he double-checked with the state on regulations for bar seating. He said he was told different groups need to be 6 feet apart at the bar, but if a group who came together is comfortable with whom they came, they can sit together, provided they are 6 feet away from other groups at the bar.

“That was definitely a clarification we wanted to make sure we got,” Mr. Borrero said.

Bartenders and servers are also required to wear face coverings while working.

Both Mr. Hajek and Mr. Borrero said they have not had any problems through the first few days of Phase 2.

“All the guests are super, super happy,” Mr. Hajek said. “The atmosphere has been pretty amazing. If we could get sports back, it would help the situation because all we’re doing now is watching reruns. But everyone is just happy right now to interact with their servers or their bartenders. I don’t think we’ll notice any real struggles until the weekend when more people come to the bar.”

“Everybody is trying to be helpful as far as patrons and customers go,” Mr. Borrero said. “We’ve been preparing for this for two weeks with a checklist — how we’re cleaning everything and how we’re treating people when they get into the building.”

“The biggest thing is just getting the guidelines out there so people feel comfortable,” he added. “We’re happy to be open and starting to get back to the normal Cantina.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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