HOWARD COUNTY, Md. — Like many restaurant owners across the state, Joe Barbera, owner of AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar is getting ready to welcome back his guests for indoor dining.
"It's been baby steps," said Barbera. "Especially recognizing the customer, the guest has to feel comfortable."
The Howard County business owner says he's adapted his business to accommodate the community's need, starting with curbside delivery and carryout. When Governor Larry Hogan allowed restaurants to offer Alfresco dining, AIDA Bistro was ready. Now Barbera, his wife Mary and the rest of the staff are preparing for Friday at 5 p.m.
"Our dining room is about half of what we normally have," said Mary.
Pointing to blue markings on the floor, she showed WMAR-2 News how they plan to practice social distancing for guests.
"You can see the blue lines. We have to have a distance of six feet. We also had to distance how far each chair was," she said.
Looking around the restaurant, it was clear to see the importance placed on sanitation. There were multiple areas designed for hand sanitizing which included gloves and wipes. In addition, the restaurant is using paper menus which will be thrown out after each use.
It's also using disposable plates and utensils.
While indoor dining is nothing new for the Barberas, Mary said the experience will feel a little different.
"We're going to ask you to please treat your fellow guests as well as our employees with safety but also with kindness," she said. "Maybe a little bit of gentleness. We will have fun throughout the process and you'll have a lot of great food."
While Governor Hogan gave the greenlight for restaurants to reopen dining rooms, not all will participate. It will be up to the discretion of county and city leaders to allow restaurants in their jurisdiction to operate in this manner.
Marshall Weston, President and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland believes indoor dining could save businesses from going under.
"At this point in time we're projecting that 25 percent of all restaurants in Maryland are going to close permanently due to this pandemic. Hopefully this indoor dining will prevent some of those from closing."
Indoor dining begins at 5 p.m. Friday. For a full list of guidelines set forth to protect restaurant staff and guests click here.