Tuesday update

Yesterday I went online and made an appointment to get my first post-house arrest haircut at my usual place, Rachel’s Day Salon and Spa. Usually I try to get a haircut every 3 to 4 months. However, I am known to procrastinate, so my thinking was, “It’s been almost 6 months, I need to make an appointment soon” when the house arrest/Safer at Home order was put in place in mid-to-late March. So now I’m at 8. I was going to wait a few weeks after their re-opening date to give the ladies time to get their appointments in, but yesterday I happened to be sitting directly across from a mirror. “I can’t take this anymore,” I thought.

I have to say, I am very impressed with the list of rules Rachel’s has put in place to keep their customers and employees safe. Some of it you might expect: Customers have to wear a mask, they have to wait outside until their stylist is ready to see them, and they are asked not to bring anyone with them. Some of their other regulations, though, illustrate that they are really going the extra mile to keep everyone who comes in their shop safe. For example:

  • They’re not offering shampoos prior to haircuts at this time; customers are asked to arrive with clean, dry hair, washed 2-3 hours prior if possible
  • Everyone gets their temperature taken before their appointment, and anyone with a fever is sent home
  • Stations are stationed 8 feet apart. Why 8, when the recommendation for social distancing is 6? Probably because the stylists often stand to the left or the right of the chair, taking another foot off the distance. (By the way, many restaurants have been getting this wrong, spacing the tables 6 feet apart, rather than the chairs.)
  • Blow-dry services will not be offered at this time, to lessen the spread of particles through the air
  • They ask customers to download an app for contactless payment, although they will accept cash and credit cards too

The Daily Memphian’s Jennifer Biggs visited Mississippi Terrace, the new outdoor restaurant and bar at Bass Pro overlooking the Mississippi River, on its opening weekend. She went there to write about the food, but there are other important observations. She noticed that the outdoor restaurant was operating at well above the 50% capacity which is the limit for Back to Business Phase 2 – several people guessed it at 75%.

So here we have one of the very few restaurants in Memphis opening so soon after the house arrest was lifted. It’s a restaurant with views of the Mississippi River, and it’s a restaurant that is part of one of the city’s most prominent businesses, Bass Pro – a business city officials spent years recruiting here. How in the world did management not realize the media was going to show up on their opening weekend? And they should have realized that any food reviews would include a review of how well COVID-19 regulations are being enforced – Jennifer Biggs has done that pretty consistently since things started to re-open.

I betcha dollars to donuts that someone will send a link to that article to the city’s COVID-19 email hotline, and Code Enforcement will be out at Mississippi Terrace sometime this coming weekend. I hope management is ready.

Got a recommendation for managers of restaurants and bars where customers seat themselves: Look up the capacity on your permit and divide it by 2. Anytime you think capacity could be at or above that number during a typical, pre-COVID-19 week, have a doorman. Anytime you have reason to believe the media might come in your place, have a doorman. Give them a clicker to count up and down, and stop letting people in when the clicker is at half capacity.

Most customers won’t police themselves. They won’t look around the room and say, “There are too many people here.” They for the most part have been following rules all week… be at your desk at 8 or we’ll write you up, wear business casual, don’t get caught surfing Facebook on your phone during the pointless weekly meeting. They’re not going to voluntarily look for more rules to follow on their own time.  (Later in the post I’ll tell you a rule of thumb I’ve developed for figuring out when to depart my favorite watering holes because they’re about to get crowded.)

It’s not reasonable to expect bartenders and servers to police the crowd. If 75% of the place is full, they’re going to earn 50% more tips than if the place is 50% full. People do what’s in their best interest.

I mentioned that there are people who have been going out, taking photos of bar and restaurant crowds that violate the Back-to-Business rules. I know with one hundred percent certainty that those people were out this past weekend. You may see them as tattletales, but they see themselves as protectors. They’re protecting the clerk at the grocery store, the cashier at Walgreens, the nursing home attendant who will come in contact with the people who were at the crowded restaurant. Whether you agree with them or not, you need to be aware that they’re out there.

One more thing about that article about Mississippi Terrace… zoom in on that photo and notice how many customers have masks on. That is very consistent with my outings to restaurants and bars the past three weeks.

All right, now I’ll circle back around and share a rule of thumb I have developed. It will only work during the months of May through September. I have learned that anytime I go to a bar and hear a particular phrase spoken by customers (staff don’t count) for the third time, it’s time to tab out and leave because it will get crowded within the next hour.

The phrase? “Pool party.” I know that sounds ridiculous but try it out for yourself.

Are you guys as sick of reading about COVID-19 as I am writing about it? I would much rather by writing about the Cinderella story of the 8-seed who made it to the NBA Finals, led by a pair of 20-year-olds. I would much rather be telling you that the BBQ team took home a second top 10 trophy in shoulder in three years. I would much rather report that East Memphis is gearing up for Italian Fest this weekend.

Back tomorrow, and I’ll try to scrounge up some news that’s not related to this stupid virus.