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People allowed to eat outside of restaurants for first time in almost two months

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BATON ROUGE – Friday, May 1 was the first day that restrictions were slightly eased for eating outside of restaurants since the coronavirus spurred a stay-at-home order that has lasted well over a month.

The new guidelines for restaurants and other businesses are a part of the governor’s extended stay at home order until May 15.

Seeing seats filled with smiling faces was a welcomed sight for a lot of folks. Patio and extended outdoor seating at restaurants are now officially open. Of course, that comes with restrictions from the state.

“We kind of call it the tip of the spear. We’re the first people out. We get to try it out,” Neal Hendrick, owner of Zippy’s, said.

Plenty of people came out to Zippy’s for lunch and dinner, eager to try out this new system.

“It feels freeing,” customer Paula Vanduzee said.

There’s no table-side service allowed, however. You have to order and pick up your food and drink before finding a table.

Restaurants like Zippy’s have prepared for this all week, making sure they comply with the new orders.

“Mostly going over regulations, clearing stuff through the fire marshal's office to make sure we met or exceeded all the demands on seating, sanitation, to make sure it was a smooth kind of transition, back to partial reopening,” Hendrick said.

According to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, restaurants must only seat 25% of their outdoor seating occupancy, and tables must be 10 feet apart with no more than 10 at a table. The governor said earlier this week that it should only be family sitting at the same table.

Employees that interact with customers must also have a face covering on at all times.

Both Governor John Bel Edwards and State Fire Marshal Butch Browning have said that they want to help people and businesses to make sure they comply with these new orders. They say that they’ll only use appropriate actions as a very last resort.

“In the event that we have to use our enforcement power, that’s gonna be used very discretionarily and it’s gonna be in cases where there is just an immediate health threat or public safety threat. But I really don’t anticipate having to do that,” Browning said.

It’s not the exact same experience, but for customers like Paula Vanduzee, she says this is as good as it gets right now.

“And just to see people and interact is… it feels like you’re freed from some kind of prison,” Vanduzee said. “I don’t think I'm doing anything differently than I would do in my backyard.”

For more information on the state’s rules for outdoor seating at restaurants, click here.

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