A dull murmur is spreading across Aberdeen this past week.
It has a tone of both hope and caution as many restaurants, salons and shops open back up and allow customers in shared public spaces.
The decision to do so came under a host of rules from Aberdeen City Council last week. It was not an easy decision. I don’t think anyone has envied the position our council is in, navigating a pandemic on the local level. The community was not been given a perfect answer because there isn’t one. What we have been given is a host of localized guidelines that build on the laundry list of state and CDC guidelines.
No matter what guidelines you look at, they all have one thing in common — individual responsibility.
It’s your space, your protective equipment, your hygiene that will have the biggest impact on the health of our community in the coming weeks. Responsibility is on the individual visiting an establishment, not just the establishment. The handful of business owners I’ve corresponded with since Aberdeen adopted its newest ordinance are eager to get back to serving their loyal customers. And, if those businesses can offer the best environment, space and sanitation, then we as patrons need to do our part.
“I’m ready. I’ve been ready for about 31 days,” said Bill Sutton, co-owner of The Millstone Family Restaurant. “We’ve talked to a lot of our customers. We’re opening so they can come in for breakfast and coffee, visit with friends. I’m sure they haven’t been missing me, but they’ve been missing somebody.”
Some restaurants had closed their doors completely at the end of March, others shifted to carryout or delivery only. The Millstone made the most of its temporary closure to replace some high-traffic carpet with tile, among other updates.
Others restaurants are offering limited hours, like Perkins, which is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m. Some business owners have come up with creative efficiencies, like Stacy Gossman. He owns Scotty’s and Big Fella’s. Only Scotty’s is open for now, but with menu options coming from both places. You could feasibly get a Scotty’s Rebel Burger and a Big Fella’s burger for a side-by-side comparison, and all under one roof.
Some establishments are a little more reticent in their approach and are waiting to see how the community’s soft reopening’s will go. The Brass Kettle, for instance, is continuing its closure for the time being.
The Red Rooster Coffee House is sticking with carryout and delivery only. Starbucks and Caribou have not opened their dine-in areas and continue to see long drive-thru lines.
For restaurants to have to close — even just a dining area — and reopen more than a month later, it can take a bit of time to shore up supplies and get running again.
“We have to rebuild our inventory so we have something to serve the people. You can’t keep the gravy. So we’ve been making fresh for the last three days,” Sutton said. “We’re trying to keep in contact with purveyors, getting all the products we need. We’ve had a couple glitches but we’re ready.”
As the openings, schedules and accommodations for each restaurant stay in flux, it’s best to call ahead or check their webpages before making plans.
In a field where it’s required for clients and professionals to come in direct contact, Fallon Helm assures patrons that Revive Day Spa is taking all possible measures to ensure a safe trip to the salon and spa. She’s been a consistent figure at city council meetings as ordinances concerning small businesses have been hammered out.
“We’re thrilled. We are pretty proactive because we are governed under South Dakota Board of Health. We also have an apprentice program, so we get inspected monthly by the state,” said Helm. “As far as getting back to it, we adopted the city ruling.”
Helm has made sure all cleaning supplies are continuously stocked and at the ready — not the easiest feat when those types of supplies are in high demand. In the establishment, new logistics have been implemented so a client leaves the smallest footprint possible during a visit. Customers won’t be switching between rooms for services if at all possible and will only be working with one professional. Masks are mandatory.
“We have 3,700 square feet, so we’re not compromising social distancing. We have a one-to-one ratio and no guests,” Fallon said.
Bars, usually a brouhaha of back-slapping and cheers with little regard for personal space, are also opening their doors. They, too, are trying to ensure all safety measures are met while welcoming patrons back. Rohly’s Bar and others have opened. Lager’s and The Zoo opened Thursday, and Pounders is shooting for May 12. More are sure to follow in the coming days.
“We had adapted to reports in the early days of March, prior to any city council discussions, with a pretty aggressive approach to distancing patrons, canceling our live entertainment, screening employees and sanitizing additional ‘touch spots,’” said Michael Rohl, owner of Rohly’s. “So we already had an advantage coming into this. Being closed the month of April gave us time to do an extensive remodel, but we also recognized when the time would come to open back up it wouldn’t just be a back-to-normal scenario.”
I believe a lot of us are elated for these slivers of normalcy — getting a haircut or massage, meeting friends for happy hour or having a nice dinner out. I just hope our eagerness for “normal” won’t come back to haunt us. It’s on all of us to make it through these next weeks as safely as possible because there really is no getting “back to normal” in all this.