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Dining out? Here are some guidelines for staying safe as COVID-19 restrictions ease

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People walk down Main Street as life slows down in Columbia due to COVID-19.

The South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association released a set of customer guidelines on Monday morning for those returning to dining in restaurants.

They include things like self monitoring one’s symptoms (fever, cough, etc.) and, if one is uncomfortable dining in, encouraging customers to get takeout food. The guidance comes on the first day that restaurants in Columbia, and throughout the state, are able to re-open for reduced capacity indoor dining.

Gov. Henry McMaster announced on Friday that he was re-opening restaurants at half capacity and will assess further easing of restrictions based on how the dining-in phase goes. His moves have mirrored a proposal given by the SCRLA on reopening restaurants in three phases with certain health recommendations — phase one included outdoor dining, phase two includes indoor dining and phase three entails easing of restrictions on things like social distancing.

“As restaurants begin to open today, we genuinely ask those that choose to dine-out be courteous and understanding as we reopen our business to welcome you back,” the organization says in its press release. “The safety and wellbeing of our staff and our guests will be top-of-mind as we charter these new waters. In order to do so, we need your help.”

The release details other steps customers should take, as well, and also acts as a primer for those who may not be following the evolving situation closely. That includes noting how restaurants are seating at reduced occupancy — the organization recommends calling ahead for a reservation or checking on wait times.

Additionally, it encourages six feet of social distancing in scenarios (such as waiting to be seated) and details that customers are restricted to parties of eight or less. If more, the groups will be seated separately.

McMaster’s move to ease dining restrictions has been met with mixed opinions. Some owners reopened their stores to eager customers, while others stayed shuttered out of caution.

David Clarey joined Free Times in November 2019 as a food and news writer. He's constantly fighting competing desires to try cooking food at home and spending his entire paycheck on Columbia restaurants.

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