Panel: Indoor dining returns Wednesday

Indoor dining is expected to return to the Capital Region on Wednesday. [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]

HUDSON — Indoor dining and personal care businesses are expected to reopen Wednesday as the Capital Region is anticipated to begin phase 3 of the state’s economic reopening process.

The Columbia Comeback Committee held a video conference call Monday focused on helping restaurant owners understand what is permitted and what is required of them in Phase 3.

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reopening plan, as the number of coronavirus cases continues to decline statewide, restaurants will be able to offer indoor dining. Outdoor dining was permitted under phase 2, which started in the Capital District Region on June 3.

“It is really important for businesses in phase 3 to familiarize themselves with what is required in phase 3 for their particular industry,” said Jeffrey Hunt, co-chairman of the Columbia Comeback Committee.

The committee is a countywide initiative aimed at helping businesses reopen in accordance with state regulations.

“Phase 3 business reopening guidelines are an expansion of the phase 2 opening that allowed outside seating and the earlier essential business openings that allowed takeout,” Columbia Comeback Committee co-chairman F. Michael Tucker said.

Similar to businesses that reopened in earlier phases, phase 3 businesses are required to develop a safety plan, either using a template provided by the state or by creating one of their own. The plan does not have to be filed anywhere, but the business has to have it on hand if needed.

Most of the requirements for indoor dining are similar to outdoor dining — tables and seats must be six feet apart from other tables, face coverings are required of all employees and patrons when they are not seated at a table, and hand hygiene and sanitizing of the facilities are required.

Employees must wash their hands or change gloves in between busing tables.

There is one significant difference between indoor and outdoor dining — the six-foot social distancing is not the only seating requirement when dining indoors.

“Outdoors you limit it to the number of tables that can be safely maintained. Indoors, it is not just about being six feet away, you can’t go further than 50% of your capacity,” Tucker said.

Businesses are encouraged to minimize the sharing of pens and pads, and to utilize touchless payment if they can. The use of cash is discouraged wherever possible, Hunt said.

“One of the recommended best practices is to try to handle cash as little as possible,” Hunt said. “Phone payments or credit card payments are probably a good way to move towards that as we look to raise capacity from 50% to 75% to 100%.”

Restaurants are also required to use signs for entrances and exits, and to aid customers in navigating the premises while avoiding interactions that are not socially distanced.

“They are trying to avoid opportunities for people to congregate with each other and prevent them from running into other employees or customers,” Tucker said.

There are limits to the number of patrons that can be seated at a table.

“The individuals seated must be from the same party, but they can be from different households. You can’t have tables of more than 10 people, and communal tables are only permitted if six feet of distance can be maintained between them,” Tucker said.

One requirement businesses in Columbia County have found confusing is the employer’s obligations to employees who cannot come to work because of the virus, Tucker said.

“You are required to continue to pay them while they are out, either in quarantine or in recovery,” Tucker said.

In addition to indoor dining, Phase 3 also permits the reopening of personal care businesses such as nail salons, tattoo shops, massage therapy, tanning salons and businesses that provide waxing and cosmetology services, according to the governor’s website.

As the economy reopens, the county is encouraging residents to support local businesses to help them stay afloat following the three-month shutdown.

“We are in the middle of a shop-local campaign for Columbia County and the Columbia Economic Development Corporation is providing an up-to-date list of businesses that are opening,” Hunt said.

He encouraged county businesses that are open to contact the CEDC to let them know so their information, hours of operation, location and other details can be shared with prospective customers.

The city of Hudson is promoting other initiatives to support local businesses, as well.

“The Hudson Bonds program enables individuals to buy bonds to spend at participating businesses in the city of Hudson. Basically, you pay twice the amount — half of it goes towards the business and the other goes towards the creation of a local grant program to provide economic relief in the future,” said Katherine Higgins from the CEDC.

The city’s Tourism Board has also put out a call for proposals for grants, Higgins said.

“These are applications for projects that can contribute to the economic vitality of Hudson, the community of Hudson, and overall promote Hudson as a destination for local and visiting communities,” Higgins said.

The program provides up to $5,000 for short-term projects and up to $15,000 for more long-term projects. The deadline to apply for the first round of grants is June 26. The applicant must be a business or organization based in Hudson, and the project must take place in Hudson, Higgins said.

For more information on support for local businesses during the reopening, visit columbiacomeback.com.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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