More than a week into the phased reopening that has allowed restaurants to resume limited table service and nonessential retailers to welcome customers back to their stores, establishment owners are dealing with two problems they didn’t necessarily anticipate: the challenge of encouraging social distancing among their patrons and a labor shortage.
For restaurants that serve alcohol and tend to be popular gathering spots, the social distancing issue has been particularly tricky to navigate. Business owners are, naturally, glad customers are coming back but find themselves in an uncomfortable position when those customers are either careless or cavalier in their disregard for safety protocols.
“It really puts the business owner in a difficult situation,” says Neil Hendricks, who owns Zippy’s near the Perkins Road overpass. “They’ve given us no way to enforce this except to say we have to enforce it. So we try to just tell people, ask them nicely, to spread out. But it’s very difficult. We’re just doing the best we can.”
Though officials maintain that Baton Rouge residents are following the rules, the reality, according to local business owners is that people are tired of being cooped up at home and some are just done with the coronavirus crisis, whether the public health threat is over or not.
“Our customers are way over it and are very vocal about it,” says one local restaurateur, who asked not to be identified. “They’re frustrated we can’t seat them, frustrated we can’t take more reservations and 95 percent of them are not wearing masks. They’re kind about it. They’re not frustrated at us. They are just frustrated.”
Read on for the full story, which originally appeared in the Thursday, May 21, edition of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.