Restaurants in most of Indiana have OK to reopen dining rooms

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Most of Indiana restaurants will be permitted to open at 50% dining room capacity Monday after being limited to takeout and delivery services since Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order went into effect March 23.

Excluded are three counties especially hard hit by COVID-19—Marion, where Mayor Joe Hogsett has a stay-at-home order in place until May 15, and Cass and Lake. It is still uncertain when Hogsett will allow county eateries to reopen their dining rooms, but many restaurants are hoping to open May 18.

In addition, personal services such as hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors are allowed to open in 89 of 92 counties Monday—by appointment only.

The reopenings are permitted under Holcomb’s Back on Track Indiana Plan, an executive order he unveiled May 1.

Holcomb’s plan calls for a gradual relaxation of social distancing rules over nine weeks. The restaurant reopenings are part of Stage 2. The complete reopening of the state—Stage 5—is planned for July 4.

From March 23 to May 4, all retailers in Indiana had been closed, except those selling “necessities of life,” such as groceries, convenience stores and general merchandise stores.

Also since March 23, restaurants have been only allowed to offer take-out and delivery.

Assuming the state continues to have enough ICU beds and ventilators available and testing and contract tracing goes well, Stage 3 of the plan would begin May 24 and could apply statewide. That phase expands retail capacity to 75% and increases the permitted size of social gatherings from 25 to 100.

While many restaurants are eager to reopen dining rooms, others plan to ease back into things by initially limiting seating to outdoor areas. Some, especially with smaller dining rooms, say reopening at 50% capacity won’t make financial sense, so they’ll wait until restrictions are further lifted.

Restaurants face numerous changes if they choose to reopen. State guidelines call for servers and other staff to wear masks. Eateries are expected to offer one-use menus or menus that are texted to customers. Bars will remain closed and live music will be prohibited. Diners will be asked to wait in their vehicles until their reservation time. Tables will be spaced out and table sizes will be limited to six.

More detailed reopening guidelines for Indiana businesses can be found here.

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