Do’s and don’ts for dining in the Vail Valley this winter
Dining out is one of Vail’s favorite past-times, especially in the winter when après bleeds into dinner bleeds into nighttime drinks. But with the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced restaurant capacities, a typical night out won’t look the same for the 2020-2021 season.
But just because things aren’t the same doesn’t mean they can’t provide a good distraction from the stress of our world today. Dining has always been an act of leisure, and it will continue to be, so long as restaurant patrons are willing to follow some basic precautionary measures to keep themselves, staff and other diners safe.
Here are some Do’s and Don’t’s for dining out in the Vail Valley during the pandemic.
Do: Wear a mask.
This one should come at no surprise, since it’s a statewide mandate to wear them inside and a local mandate to wear them outside in Vail Village and Beaver Creek Village. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that masks can block up to 70% of potentially transmissive respiratory particles, but masks also protect staff and other diners from illness. So, respect mask policies and wear them unless and until actively eating or drinking, per new local guidelines.
Don’t: Ignore staff requests to social distance, put masks on or stand in undesignated areas.
These protocols are put in place to protect you from exposure to COVID-19. At the end of the day, the restaurants are trying to ensure that each diner has a good experience, and getting COVID would not fit in with that mission. So, help the restaurants create a safe leisure activity and listen to staff when they ask you to do something, even if you may not like or agree with it.
Do: Make a reservation.
All Vail Valley restaurants are currently operating at 25% capacity or 50 people (whichever is fewer), since Eagle County is in the orange zone of COVID-19 containment and prevention. That means that tables — which were in high demand this summer when restaurants could seat at 50% capacity — will be incredibly difficult to get without prior arrangements. If you’re trying to avoid crowds, consider eating a late lunch or early dinner instead of dining at peak times.
Don’t: Assume anything.
You never know with this pandemic. Perhaps you’ve had your eye on one particular restaurant, but you haven’t called ahead. If COVID sweeps through the staff, the restaurant might need to close, and then you’re left trying to find a backup plan, which is even harder when reservations are practically required. Or, they might already be full for the night. Don’t throw a temper tantrum. Be sure to do your research by checking the restaurant’s social media pages, website or by calling ahead.
Do: Wash and sanitize your hands.
Again, this should be a gimme at this point in the game, but remember that restaurants are public places. Like going to the grocery store, you are putting yourself at risk for virus exposure. By sanitizing and washing your hands thoroughly, you can reduce that risk. Soap and water are more effective than hand-sanitizer, so head to the bathroom if you’ve ended your meal with sticky hands, and use sanitizer if you want a quick freshen-up after touching common surfaces, like door handles or pens for signing checks.
Don’t: Complain about alternative menus.
Many restaurants have altered the traditional hard-copy menu format to help keep these high-touch objects away from staff and guests. Many are using QR codes, which can be scanned with your phone’s camera, to present a digital menu on your phone. Many are using more easily-recycled menus printed on computer paper, rather than something more permanent. Be flexible and willing to adapt to these changes: the restaurant’s end goal is to make sure each customer enjoys their meal, their experience, comes in happy and leaves happy.
Do: Tip your server well.
Remember that dining out during COVID-19 is a privilege and a luxury that not everyone has. Remember that many of these workers were laid off or furloughed back in March, and that your favorite spots might be struggling to make ends meet. Tipping generously expresses appreciation for the service you received. Workers are putting themselves at risk for exposure by serving you, so sending them a little extra can help them continue creating enjoyable experiences for diners in restaurants.
Don’t: Use cash.
Multiple bills create more opportunities for contact, whereas one credit or debit card is easily inserted and can be easily sanitized after use. Cash has been handled by many people before you, but a card is your own property that’s mostly touched by you.
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