GREAT FALLS — Phase Two of the "Reopening The BIg Sky" differs little from Phase One for Montana restaurants and bars. Although Phase Two allows for more lenient restrictions, many bar and restaurant owners will continue to operate as they have during Phase One.
According to Governor Bullock, Phase Two allows for public gatherings to increase from 10 to 50, increased capacities for bars, restaurants, breweries and casinos, the reopening of bowling alleys, and the lifting of the 14-day quarantine requirement.
However, the only changes that impact restaurants and bars are increased capacity allowances within the establishment and increase in party size from 6 to 10. Social distancing measures will remain in effect and a maximum closing time of 11:30 p.m. will remain in effect indefinitely.
Tracy's Family Restaurant’s chef and consultant Gregory Rodgers said the only changes customers can expect during Phase Two are more seating and improvements to the establishment (addition of an outdoor patio, cabaret license to allow beer and wine purchases, and new menu features). Rodgers said the restaurant’s safety regulations will largely remain the same.
“Phase two is pretty similar. As far as to our side, we've continuously always used the FDA standards of operation for food safety which has no impact with coronavirus since we've already been to the top tier. there is no difference on our side with that. As far as safety and sanitation, we are already at the top of our game, across the board,” Rodgers said.
Despite being the manager of an establishment that includes a bar, casino, bowling alley, and food service, Black Eagle Community Center manager Greg Schoby said the center would also experience little change during Phase 2, since occupancy is already at a maximum given social distancing restrictions. “Right now, with how small our place is, we can’t add more tables or chairs. So we’re still at 50% capacity even though we’re able to go to 75,” Schoby said.
Schoby said the bar and casino can accommodate 50 people each while social distancing, and will start allowing smaller events up to 50 people to take place in their event hall. They can also allow patrons in their bowling alley beginning Wednesday.
Although protocols might not be changing much as Montana transitions to phase two, employees within the bar and restaurant industry say customer conduct needs to change. That includes respecting rules and regulations, staying seated at bars and restaurants, and avoiding touching multiple areas to avoid spreading germs.
Halftime Sports Bar & Casino manager Robyn Roberts explained how customers can make these establishments run more smoothly by following some general guidelines. “Let the people that are working let you know what you have to do. You can't expect to come in and sit at any table when you walk in the door because we have to put signs on them so nobody sits on them in case we can't get to them to be cleaned off...so we ask that people be a little bit more patient. Things are going to take longer than normal ,” Roberts said.
She said the following rules also apply: no bar seating allowed; must be seated to be served; must sit at a clean table. Roberts encourages customers to be respectful and understanding of all restaurant and bar owners during this time by complying with them when asked.
Here are some of the highlights of phase two:
- Avoid gatherings in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing. Groups larger than 50 people should be cancelled unless physical distancing can be maintained. It is recommended to continue to social distance in gatherings of any size.
- Restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, and casinos remains in the same operations status as Phase One, but with an increase to 75% capacity.
- Gyms, indoor group fitness classes, pool, and hot tubs can operate at 75% capacity and only if they can adhere to strict physical distancing and they exercise frequent sanitation protocols.
- Concert halls, bowling alleys, and other places of assembly may operate with reduced capacity and if they adhere to strict physical distancing guidelines.
- All businesses are required to follow the social distancing and sanitation guidelines established in Phase One, and Montanans are strongly encouraged to continue sanitation practices, including hand washing and wearing masks in public places like grocery stores.
The aforementioned businesses and their addresses are listed below:
- Tracy’s Family Restaurant - 127 Central Avenue
- Black Eagle Community Center - 2332 Smelter Avenue
- Halftime Sports Bar & Casino - 1101 NW Bypass