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Minding The Tables: Indoor Dining A Boost To Connecticut Restaurants In Pandemic

First And Last Tavern
Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public
Arrows lead the way for customers at Glastonbury's First and Last Tavern to allow for adequate social distancing. Though Connecticut restaurant patrons can now eat inside, bar areas are still closed.

First came the return of outdoor dining at Connecticut restaurants, and now the state is allowing indoor dining.

It’s part of Phase 2 of the state’s reopening from what was essentially an economic shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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There’s still a mix of indoor and outdoor dining at places like Giovanni’s Brick Oven Pizzeria in Glastonbury, as establishments adhere to state social distancing guidelines.

“As far as indoor dining, 6 feet apart so we’re able to get every other table -- if that,” said Sarah Berube, a manager at Giovanni’s.

Because of proximity to other tables, two booths were blocked off by yellow tape. Indoor seating in this restaurant is already limited to the front entrance due to the renovation of the back of the restaurant.

For Berube, mitigating coronavirus exposure means added work heaped onto her plate and those of other employees.

“Putting the markers where people can stand for bathrooms, putting someone extra on so they clean the bathrooms every half hour to 45 minutes,” Berube said of additional COVID-19 mitigation measures adopted for the return of indoor dining.

Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public
Connecticut Public
Sarah Berube, a manager at Giovanni's Brick Oven Pizzeria in Glastonbury, stands in the restaurant's indoor dining area on the first day this kind of service was permitted since the COVID-19 shutdown. One booth behind her is blocked off by yellow tape, unavailable to patrons to maintain social distance between tables.

Restaurants across the state are capped at 50% occupancy in Phase 2. Russell Nemarich, owner of First and Last Tavern in Glastonbury, said that number includes seating outside the restaurant.

“Combined, that gets us closer to a sustainable number of tables that we can do a reasonable amount of business,” Nemarich said.

Among the steps Nemarich has taken to reopen: loading up on hand sanitizer for the building, having extra masks in case his workers need them and reassigning an extra dishwasher to monitor restaurant cleanliness.

Nemarich and his staff aren’t taking any chances.

“We can’t afford a setback, and I don’t want to be the person that’s responsible for a setback -- be it here in our store or in the state at all,” Nemarich said.

“We need to get the state reopened, but the only way we do that is if we all really pay attention.”

The governor’s office said the next phase of reopening is expected in mid-July.

Frankie Graziano’s career in broadcast journalism continues to evolve.

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