On Monday evening, Governor Inslee’s office gave Seattle a preview of what restaurants will look like whenever dining rooms become a thing once again.
As a handful of less-populous Washington counties move into stage two of Inslee’s plan to reopen to economy after two months of Covid-19 closures, his office detailed out the measures restaurants must take in order to let customers return to sit at their tables. Presumably Seattle will face the same requirements when we enter this second stage of recovery.
Many of the requirements are a given: tables of five diners or less, spaced six feet apart; 50 percent occupancy; single-use menus; hand sanitizer flowing like wine. Buffets and salad bars haven’t been part of the public conversation much these days, but yeah—it makes sense to keep those off limits. The phase two ban on bar seating? That will be rough for so many places in Seattle, where bars can provide most of the seating in small dining rooms.
But the mandate prompting the most conversation is a requirement that restaurants “keep a daily log of customers and maintain that daily log for 30 days.” The data collected (contact info and time arrived at the restaurant) would be used in case there’s a need for contact tracing, a process Inslee has presented as fundamental to reopening businesses. Still, it sets off a less-than-joyful noise for citizens concerned about their privacy.
Industry networks like the robust Seattle Restaurant Support Facebook group immediately began to debate the various ways in which this is—or is not—a big deal. Reservation software like OpenTable or Tock or Resy already retain this same data (not to mention your credit card) and people who order takeout don’t need to submit their info.
Restaurants in the eight counties granted approval to move into phase two must meet all the requirements laid out by the governor’s office before they can open their dining rooms. Meanwhile Seattle will be watching—and learning.