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Dining out during COVID-19: Restaurants reopen gradually

(WBAY photo)
(WBAY photo)(WBAY)
Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 4:54 PM CDT
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As businesses reopen, people can start going out again. But, while some restaurants have opened their dining rooms, many are still implementing extra precautions.

“We get phone calls maybe 10, 15 times a day asking ‘Are you open? Can we come in and sit inside?’” said Copper Rock Coffee Company manager Corbin Graper.

The Copper Rock Coffee Company is one of many downtown Appleton restaurants that’s now allowing dine-in with some changes.

“Trying to have the tables and chairs spaced at six-feet difference,” said Graper. “We’ve also been doing, every 30 minutes, sanitizing all high-touch areas. Tables, our POS [point of sale] systems.”

Employees are also wearing masks.

Copper Rock isn’t alone in implementing these types of precautions, even though the state isn’t requiring restaurants to take any safety measures at all.

“We went through a lot of can versus should,” said Kimberly Finnell, co-owner of Osorio’s Latin Fusion in Grand Chute. “You know, we went from all of these rules and everyone telling us what to do to, all of a sudden, none.”

Osorio’s, like Copper Rock, is having employees wear masks, spacing out seating, and providing sanitary stations for customers.

“Any little thing that we can do, if it made a difference for one person, it’s completely worth it,” said Finnell.

“We do feel that the concern of the coronavirus is very important,” said Graper. “We have many people that come in and they just want to feel that sense of normalcy but also know they are well taken care of.”

Finnell suspects there still will be long-term changes in the industry, even with some normalcy coming back.

“We’ve now learned how to be delivery drivers and decided to continue that service because, whereas takeout and delivery used to be 5 percent of our business, now even being open depending on the day it’s anywhere from 20 to 40 percent,” said Finnell.

But both Finnell and Graper say the customer support since reopening has been great.

“So many people telling us this is the first place they’ve come. It makes me want to cry, just that level of trust and faith you put in us,” said Finell. “I’m just so happy to see everybody.”

“A lot of our customers and our staff, they’ve been great, they’ve pitched in. We get rushes like what we have now,” said Graper.

Each business says their Facebook pages are the best place to go to keep up with operation changes as they make them. Though, for now, both are content to keep the current safety measures.

"No matter who you are, no matter where you're going, it's a matter of trust,” said Finnell. “If you're coming here, that means you've already taken that leap of faith and you trust us to keep you safe. You know, that means more to us than anything in the whole world."

"We have lots of loyal customers daily, we got a lot of our baristas we know exactly what they want before they come in,” said Graper. “We're just trying to be that life on College Avenue as it comes back to life."

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