Trial and Error: Reopening Restaurants
We’ve never done this before, to this extent, in our modern world. We’ve never closed our country down due to a highly contagious virus and then had to figure out how to reopen it. So, while we must have patience and know that government officials are trying their best (except when they’re just politically motivated in their bids to get re-elected, but we’ll pretend that’s not a thing for the moment), we can still think critically about what we’re witnessing.
One of the hotly debated topics of the moment is the reopening of restaurants. Some states have allowed throngs back to populate tables and barstools, to the dismay of others, while other states are keeping hospitality doors shuttered for now.
Mayor Marty Walsh said recently that the city is streamlining the process for restaurants to get more use out of outdoor space such as parking spots. Speaking to the Boston Herald, the mayor empathized: “We certainly feel your pain,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to help restaurants survive not just now but even after this when they open up.”
While restaurants gravely need the financial support of the government, they are almost equally dependent on the continued support of their customers. Of course, if restaurants open too early and public concern is too high, the low demand will mean failure for so many beloved spots.
A recent piece in the Boston Globe by a well-known food critic writes:
“People can’t eat with masks on. Imagine the horror in the room if someone sneezes. And would anyone feel comfortable using the restrooms? The restaurant experience is only in part about eating. It is also about having fun, relaxing, enjoying the company of others. Right now, I’d have a hard time doing any of those things inside a restaurant.”
The backlash to this article from bar and restaurant owners and operators was profound. In an open letter response, the owner of two Boston restaurants gave the critic a piece of his mind, explaining the deep emotional toll so many are suffering:
“I bet you did not stare at the emptiness of a place that has been your total and complete fullness since the day it opened. I bet you did not have the weight of your employees futures, who over time have become family, occupying every inch of your soul. I bet you did not cry uncontrollably onto your steering wheel at the unsettling feeling that the prospect of a thing so much bigger than yourself, may never open again.”
It’s a sticky situation. But at the end of the day, the health of everyone must come before business profits. Since we have never done this before, it will have to be cases of trial and error as we dance around this disease until it’s no longer a giant looming above our lives. Until then, the best thing we all can do is lend a hand, or an elbow, in any way possible.