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Restaurants ready to resume dining-in service as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted

Posted at 6:10 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 21:18:22-04

GREAT FALLS — Governor Steve Bullock announced during a news conference on Wednesday a three-phase plan to "re-open" Montana, as closures and restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 will be gradually rescinded.

Among the highlights of the plan is that restaurants, bars, casinos, and breweries can become operational beginning on May 4. Restaurants have been restricted to take-out and delivery only for more than a month, and the imminent re-opening is good news for them as they plan to re-open their dining rooms.

Kaci Mitchell, manager at Boston's Restaurant & Sports Bar in Great Falls, is excited and says they've been preparing and have a plan in place.

"We have been planning over the last couple of weeks just what we're going to do because we knew that we would have to space everybody out. So we're going to block off some tables. Keep everybody as far apart as possible, while still maintaining proper operations. And we're going to sanitize as needed in between every customer and disposable condiments. Wipe all the menus down, keep everybody separated as far as blocking off tables, moving chairs out of the way, just so that the tables aren't available, and maintaining large parties separated as much as we can. No more than six per table, so we'll split them up."

Mitchell says they appreciate everything the community has done for them: "We're grateful for the community right now. The community has stepped up, you know, everybody's been really looking out for each other and keeping the business as much afloat as we can. So we're grateful for what we've got so far."

Here is the portion of the re-opening plan regarding restaurants, bars, and casinos:

  • A specific cleaning plan must be implemented, and employees must be trained in proper sanitation practices.
  • All surfaces occupied must be cleaned between customers, including tables, chairs, booths, and highchairs.
  • Table items including, condiments, menus, napkins, and décor, should be removed from the table unless they can be adequately cleaned between customers.
  • Menus must be cleaned between customers.
  • Growlers and refillable or reusable containers must be cleaned prior to being refilled.
  • Gaming machines must be adequately cleaned between customers.
  • Capacity must be limited to 50% of normal operating capacity to allow for adequate group spacing.
  • Tables must be limited to six people per table.
  • Establishments must provide for 6 feet of physical distancing between groups and or tables by increasing table spacing, removing tables, or marking tables as closed; providing for a physical barrier between tables; or back-to-back booth seating provides adequate separation.
  • In-house dining for quick service restaurants should remain closed, if all guidelines can’t be met, including the cleaning of every table between customers.
  • Sitting or standing at bars or counters is not allowed.
  • In bars, drinks and food must be served to customers at a table.

The City-County Health Department in Great Falls said on Wednesday evening: "Businesses in Great Falls and Cascade County are responsible for adhering to this guidance, whether or not they have been specifically contacted by the Health Department. The Health Department is working on further guidance that can be used by individuals and businesses and will share as soon as possible."

Here are more highlights from the first phase of "Re-opening The Big Sky":

  • The "stay at home order" will expire on April 26 for individuals and April 27 for businesses. Retail businesses can become operational on or after April 27 if they can adhere to requirements to limit capacity and maintain strict physical distancing.
  • Businesses where groups gather without the ability to social distance including movie theaters, gyms, and other places of assembly remain closed.
  • Places of worship can become operational on April 26 in a manner consistent with social distancing between people who are not members of the same household.
  • On May 7, all schools will have the option to return to in-classroom teaching delivery at the discretion of local school boards. The Directive does not preclude school boards from declaring local emergencies to continue to receive all appropriate state funding to continue to provide remote learning. NOTE: Great Falls Public Schools superintendent Tom Moore told KRTV on Monday that the Board of Trustees has not yet decided whether to resume on-campus classes; he expects a decision to be made on Monday evening during a meeting.

The above information is just a brief summary of key points; click here for more details of the re-opening plan.