Getting ready to reopen Cafe Genevieve for dine-in service, owner Fred Peightal was adjusting.
“It’s just going to be a new reality for us,” he said.
In early March, Cafe Genevieve reopened for the first time this year. The East Broadway restaurant had been shut down for months after a fire closed its kitchen. A week later, Gov. Mark Gordon restricted restaurants to takeout service, part of a large suite of orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus and “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases, and Genevieve more or less shut down again, offering only takeout orders.
Two months later, the number of active COVID-19 cases in Teton County has fallen to seven from a peak of 46. And while there are still about 170 active cases throughout the state, Gordon is lightening up the orders and Teton County is planning to ride along with the state for now.
That means most businesses can resume operating as long as they follow health guidelines set by the state.
Starting Friday, restaurants are now able to open their doors to seat customers. Peightal is planning his second reopening of the year. But he’s not expecting people to pour in right away.
“I’m anticipating a lot of to-go orders to continue,” he said.
Joe Rice, the owner of the Blue Collar Restaurant Group, is thinking similarly.
“I think overall it’s not going to be as good as normal, but I think it’ll be close,” said Rice, who operates five establishments in Jackson.
State guidelines mandate that restaurants stick to a strict cleaning schedule, require tables to be spaced 6 feet apart and call for signage explaining physical distancing.
“It’s gonna be a strange summer,” Peightal said. “It’s probably gonna be a strange year.”
Part of that will be achieving a balance between staying open with keeping people safe. Peightal said he hopes to stay “nimble” in doing so.
“I’m a little nervous about when tourists start to come, what’s going to happen,” he said, “but that’s our livelihood. We’ve got to be ready.”
Rice said he was prepared for tourists to arrive — he also has restaurants in Bozeman, Montana, that have been open for a few weeks — and is excited to give people a chance to get out.
“I think people realize how much they miss the social aspect,” he said. “I never realized how much we valued that until we got shut down.”
Peightal, too, is ready to see familiar faces: “I’m certainly looking forward to seeing some locals out [Friday]. I’m sure they will be.”