Table two would like a sparkling-clean washroom with a side of hand sanitizer.
In addition to food and drink offerings, restaurant owners are coming up with their own cleaning protocols to ensure customers willing to venture out during the pandemic are safe and comfortable.
Chris Graves opened the patio at the King's Head Pub on May 4, the first day the province allowed the economy to begin coming back to life. While public health officials issued rules for capacity and table spacing, there was nothing specific about sanitizing washrooms.
"There was never really a stipulation on how often we were supposed to clean the bathrooms," Graves said Wednesday. "We took it upon ourselves that we did a minimum of every 30 minutes, we were cleaning the bathrooms."
Manitoba Health officials Graves contacted suggested washrooms be cleaned every 45 minutes, but it was a recommendation and nothing was codified, he said.
The lack of direction has led the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association to compile a checklist to help more restaurants reopen with proper protocols in place when Phase 2 begins Monday.
"If we think a restaurant is going to pay a person to stand there to monitor the amount of people going into a washroom, I don't think that's feasible or can be expected," executive director Shaun Jeffrey said Wednesday.
"For the most part it’s going to stay in line with increased sanitization and education."
Jeffrey said he's visited some restaurant patios that have opened since May 4 and checked out the washrooms. He has seen signage outlining social-distance and capacity rules, contactless soap and paper-towel dispensers, hand-sanitizer dispensers and increased-frequency cleaning schedules.
"The key message here is in education: making sure that contactless stuff, as much as possible, is available, increased (sanitizing) protocol that's documented, plus an ability to monitor the way you get to the washroom in a socially distanced manner," he said.
On Tuesday, the Manitoba Tourism Education Council launched a cleaning-standards program to teach advanced cleaning skills to people working at hotels, restaurants and retail businesses. The program offers a list of areas to clean and disinfect in public washrooms, including sinks, countertops, toilet-flush handles and door handles, as well as tips for avoiding cross-contamination.
"It can make the difference of the success of your business today," said CEO Shannon Fontaine. "People are going to be more critical of (cleanliness) and they’re going to have the expectation that they’re safe."
At the King's Head, a buzzer goes off in a staff member's pocket every 30 minutes, prompting someone to disinfect frequently touched washroom surfaces. The middle urinal of three in the men's room has been blocked off — only two patrons are allowed inside at a time. Staff are given gloves and aprons while going about their cleaning.
And there's trust that patrons will follow the rules.
"People are fine, they’re pretty respectful of the new protocols and procedures... but we also have a pretty quick trigger finger, where the fact is if anybody isn't adhering to the policies or procedures, they're asked to leave," Graves said.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.
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