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More than two months after COVID-19 shutdowns began, state officials allowed restaurants to begin dine-in service again on May 27, and while some Littleton restaurants were ready to start waiting tables again, others were holding off.
Under guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, dine-in seating is allowed if tables are spaced out at least 6 feet apart, all staff wear gloves and face masks, parties are capped at eight people, and capacities are capped at 50% of normal or 50 people indoors, whichever is less. Customers are encouraged but not required to wear face masks while walking to or from their table.
At Palenque -- the newly-rebranded restaurant on Main Street formerly known as Adelita’s -- a few happy diners settled in for their first restaurant meal in months on May 27.
“I’m ready to have a margarita and let someone bring me dinner,” said Katie Kingston, sitting with friends at one of three tables in Palenque’s sparse streetside dining room. “This doesn’t feel weird, really. It just feels normal.”
Owner Brian Rossi, however, was a little nervous.
“This feels like the first day of high school,” Rossi said.
The whole flow of the restaurant is different, he said. There’s no seating at the bar. Directional arrows on the floor guide customers to different areas while maintaining distancing. Staff were working through the kinks of balancing a busy takeout counter with in-person dining.
Rossi requires customers to wear face masks, which sent a few potential diners packing on day one.
“Mostly people have been great though,” he said.
At Grande Station at the east end of Main Street, Littleton Business Chamber co-president Kal Murib was celebrating.
“Isn’t it so great to see people out again?” said Murib, who owns numerous buildings along Main Street, as he polished off a plate of garlic mussels.“We took this for granted, didn’t we? We didn’t know how good we had it. It’s just so good to see my friends.”
Not every Main Street restaurant was open for dine-in seating yet. The Tavern and McKinner’s Pizza Bar were still takeout-only as of May 27. At the west end of Main Street, the Melting Pot fondue restaurant was closed completely, with a sign out front for a sanitizing and disinfecting service.
Up above downtown, more restaurants were holding off on dine-in service. Taco House and Damascus Grill were still takeout-only.
It could still be a while until anyone is seated at Romano’s, the family-owned Italian eatery on Windermere Street.
“The regulations keep changing, and we want to do it right,” said co-owner Sue Romano.
Romano said the restaurant requires face masks, and she’s concerned that once dine-in service returns, it will be up to wait staff to enforce the rule.
“We’re in the service business, and we don’t want to turn people away, but it’s important we keep our people safe,” she said.
In the meantime, takeout has been going well, and the restaurant is staying afloat.
“We’ll get there,” she said. “When it feels right, we’ll do it.”
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