Dining In During a Pandemic

Server Maddy Askey, takes an order from customers while wearing a mask, dining in during a pandemic at Bube's Brewery in Mt. Joy Tuesday July 7, 2020.

To adhere to state guidelines, restaurants are requiring servers to wear masks at all times. Customers, however, are allowed to take off masks while seated. 

Some diners admitted that though they feel relatively safe dining inside, they understand the reopening is riskier for servers and other restaurant employees. 

“If anything, they’re the ones at risk because we don’t have our masks on,” Hank Smeltzer, 63, of York County, said recently while dining at Bube’s Brewery in Mount Joy.

Jaime Coble, 38, who has continued working at TJ Rockwell’s in Elizabethtown during the pandemic, including when the restaurant was takeout-only, said she does not feel unsafe but acknowledges the risks.

“It’s hard for me sometimes, I think, to go up to a table that's not masked, but I have to be masked,” Coble said. “But, I mean, I understand people have to eat, and there's no way you're eating and drinking with a mask on.”

Operating at half capacity, the restaurant is seeing longer wait times in the lunch or dinner rush hours. Co-owner Jeff Heckman said the hardest part of enforcing the new guidelines is helping customers remember to wear a mask around the restaurant, like when they’re walking to the restroom. It can also be hard for servers tending to the outdoor dining on especially hot days. 

“It's very, very difficult,” Heckman said. “We try to beat the heat with hydration, reminding people Gatorade, water, and if you need to take a break, take a break.” 

A few of Heckman’s employees chose not to return, citing medical conditions and concern for household members.

Restaurants in HoustonAtlantaLos Angeles and New York City closed following an initial reopening due to employees contracting COVID-19 and an increase of cases in the area. 

“I would not go back to work, if I was given the choice,” Lancaster County chef Michelle DeChesser said. “I don't feel it's safe. I am 52. I am definitely in the range of risk factors.” 

DeChesser, who recently wrote a column on the risks of reopening for LNP | LancasterOnline, urges other employees to be aware of their protections and write down any breach in mandated guidelines to ensure they are protected under the National Labor Relations Act.


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