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‘I don’t want to wear a mask while running a restaurant!’

PUBLISHED: 10:49 06 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:49 06 May 2020

Do we all want to go to restaurants where staff wear masks and there are barriers between tables? Rachael says she doesn't think so  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Do we all want to go to restaurants where staff wear masks and there are barriers between tables? Rachael says she doesn't think so Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

Rachael Parke of No Twenty9 Burnham Market says she’d rather stay closed than have to put shields up to protect her customers.

I am not to about to give my opinion on politics and I am certainly not qualified enough to know about whether the UK made the right or wrong decisions in its attempt to combat the Coronavirus, let’s face it who is? A lot of ‘on the job’ decisions had to be made with no previous experience or training so sadly some mistakes were going to happen.

In the beginning I, like many others, was convinced we would all get the virus, that we would see friends and family fall around us and it was our responsiblilty to ensure we followed the strict guidelines or we would only have ourselves to blame for the death of our beloved. The effect on our mental health has been extreme, the anxiety almost unbearable. I suffered a minor stroke last year with anxiety and stress being the main factors. With the fear of losing my family to this virus and being paranoid about cleaning and finances, I felt this was likely to kill me too if I was not careful.

Three weeks in and I decided that the daily broadcasts were the only thing I would watch, I didn’t read anything extra on social media or any extra news reports. I had to balance the information I was receiving and how I could personally handle it, only now do I feel I can handle the occasional headache and clearing of the throat without grabbing the sterile thermometer!

As we enter the month of May Mr Johnson is shortly going to announce his exit strategy and my inbox has been bombarded with our suppliers offering PPE to use in the hospitality industry!

Well I don’t know if the people have forgotten the meaning of hospitality so to clarify I have pasted the dictionary description below.

hospitality

/hɒspɪˈtalɪti/

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noun

the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

Social, kindness, attentiveness, service, friendly, warmth, welcome, good cheer,

I would NEVER serve my guests in sunglasses! Eye contact is a crucial part of building a relationship, I can’t stand anyone talking to me in sunglasses. So why would I want to converse in a mask?

If reopening is so risky that we have to wear masks, erect screens between tables and limit the amount of beers our guests consume to two pints so we can move guests in and out of the buildIng quicker then should we be open?

Imagine going out for a nice evening meal and as soon as you walk in you are greeted by walls, walls creating shields, shields between you and your host, walls between you and other guests, will you be thinking about the decor, music, food, wine and laughter, the memories you are creating of special times with family and friends or will you be constantly reminded of the risks? Paranoid that the sever has not sanitised between taking the order, using the till, addressing the chef, serving the meals, clearing the tables, holding the banister as they host upstairs, presenting the wine, shaking the cocktail, preparing the bill.....do we shake hands? Do we embrace? How close do we get?

We were given no notice to close. We had bookings for Mothering Sunday and beyond including Easter and bank holidays. What notice can be given to reopen? How long will we have to prepare? Then ’limiting’ our capacity will cause yet further disaster to our industry with not being able to achieve the fixed costs our business carries. And who works 30% of their staff? Do the other 70% continue to be furloughed? Or are businesses expected to maintain 100% of their employees on a reduced capacity and income? This doesn’t take into the account of guests choosing still not to socialise.

We have seen amazing weather in April when we know our courtyards and beer gardens would have been busy. Being in a seasonal location our summer trade helps us get through the quieter winter months. The effects of loss of earnings will take quite some time to recover from, so further expenses before opening on items that will ‘prevent given hospitality ‘ seem ridiculous. I truly hope that pubs and restaurants do not invest in these shields. It will change the ‘face‘ of hospitality.

I can’t wait to get back to work, to have a new menu to shout about, greet people, serve wines, watch people dance to live music, help create memories, see and hear laughter in the walls that are presently sad and empty. But not until we can give it our 100%.

I hope everyone is staying safe and “we will all meet again” but hopefully not forcing our hospitality and tourism industry to do so ‘shielding our smiles and laughter’.


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