Restaurants resumed on-premises dining on Saturday but the hospitality industry is looking a whole lot different.  The use of the face mask by diners and employees is a must and so is the practice of social distancing.  On Saturday, the first day of the resumption of business, some were not yet ready to transition to the new norms, while at others who had jumped in, there was a trickle of guests. News Five’s Duane Moody took a look around the city, to find out how the restaurants are attempting to reduce risk of the coronavirus and keep customers safe. 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Statutory Instrument number seventy-two allows for al fresco dining and for residents to access pools at hotels, as well as favourite swimming spots. So over the weekend, residents took advantage of the opportunity and took to beaches, rivers as well as favourite swimming spots in Caye Caulker and across the country. While the numbers were not huge, given the state of emergency, it was a change for many, who were previously unable to due to the restrictions.

Ted Tejada, President, Belize Hotel Association

“Now they will be allowed to use the pool and dine on an outdoor setting which also for us Belizeans make it romantic and I am looking forward for Belizeans to look forward in patronizing our local establishments.”

Several restaurants that are in enclosed areas have had to continue with only doing delivery or take out services. While others that have some open space or outside deck component are making good of that facility to provide an outside dining experience outside of the curfew hours, which remain in place from eight p.m. to five a.m. daily. While some Belizeans were out at these establishments as early as Saturday, most of these restaurants officially started that service today.

Shantel Young, Manager, Bird’s Isle Restaurant

“We are in a good position where we have a lot of open space and so we can put tables out in the yard, we can expand a little, we could be safe. We were trying to get up and running for Saturday, but because of all the measures that we want to make sure that we are safe for our customers; it is best that we do it on Monday so that we can make the adjustments and be good to go by 10:30 on Monday morning.”

Celebrity Restaurant on Marine Parade has also made adjustments and is now offering an outdoor dining experience to complement its two office menus for takeout; it also does delivery. According to Maria Manzanero, they have started the transformation of the outdoor facility, while still providing the quality food that its customers enjoy.

Maria Manzanero, Supervisor, Celebrity Restaurant

“It’s a drastic change, but we are trying to do our best when it comes to the restaurant itself. We are trying to provide for our customers; it’s been almost seventeen years that the restaurant has been open and we have a lot of loyal customers and so we are trying to do our best when it comes to us serving what the people like. So for now, we open this outside part.  As you can see, we have our tables outside and try to do our best to make people comfortable cause as you know it is very hot.”

But even as these restaurants and pools are now allowed to open to the public, residents must still adhere to certain physical distancing rules and persons must remove masks only when swimming or eating.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“We know that regulation seventy-two does give more relaxation to our Belizean populace and I know that the waterways was one of the major concerns for people especially knowing the current climate situation we are having, where it is extremely hot. So now our Belizean people can now go to the waterways and enjoy it. But while you can enjoy it, there are still some restrictions that go along with it. Some of those restrictions are, you can’t have no kind of social activities alongside the waterway, which means yo can’t go ker beer and go barbecue on the beachside or the riverbank. If it is that you are going to be in the sea or river or lagoon, you must maintain social distance from any other group that is not a part of your group. And once yo go ina di water, you can take off your mask and once yo come out, yo put on back yo mask.”

Restaurants have also put in place sanitation stations where patrons can wash their hands and use sanitizers before entering the properties.

Shantel Young

“When you walk in to Bird’s Isle now at the beginning, there is a wash station there. We do ask that our customers please wash their hands before they enter into our facilities. As well, wear a mask fully covering the face. We have to do what we need to do to protect each other. And then we will have the tables fully spaced out under the requirements that you need to be at least six feet apart.”

Channel 5