Banquet capacity restriction doesn’t add up

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Good afternoon,

Thanks to a sizable decline in Covid cases and hospitalizations after a holiday surge, the occupancy cap for restaurants, bars, and retail stores in Delaware has been raised from 30 to 50 percent. The change becomes effective on Friday.

When it comes to restaurants, 60 percent would have been a better figure. Under the 50 percent cap, restaurants that comply end up in the low to mid-40s once tables are separated. The state has offered options – plexiglass barriers between booths being one example.

Unchanged is the 10-person indoor limit for banquets, receptions, etc. These restrictions have hammered venues with banquet facilities. The roster includes hotels, restaurants, fire halls, and stand-alone banquet facilities.

Based on the most recent executive order update, Neighboring Maryland moved to the 50 percent occupancy rate across the board. Cities and counties in that state can impose tighter restrictions.

It would make sense for Delaware to follow Maryland’s retail and restaurant mandates since that state’s Covid-19 stats are comparable, and confusion crops up in border areas.

It is true that mask-wearing, social distancing, and the urge to mingle present challenges for banquet-style events. Still, restaurants face similar challenges every day. Also, many banquet superspreader features – buffets, walk-up open bars, and packed seating remain off-limits.

The long-term answer is a vaccine, but it would be nice to see some flexibility coupled with stepped-up enforcement.

Sadly, a small minority of establishments with lax policies punish operators trying to do the right thing.

A final note. I brought the issue up at the governor’s weekly briefing on Covid-19. I’ll pass along the administration’s viewpoint and my response in this space tomorrow. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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