Dining in? Here’s what you need to know

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Posted on Jun 02 2020
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The open-air set-up of the Surf Club restaurant in Chalan Kanoa follows the social distancing requirement of a 6-foot distance between the tables. (JAYVEE VALLEJERA)

Planning to dine in?

With restaurants now allowed to provide dine-in services, at 25% of its originally permitted capacity and with strict social distancing rules and sanitation in place, people wanting to dine can play a big role in ensuring that customers are kept safe at the restaurant. How? By looking for the restaurant’s posted certificate of compliance.

Since the CNMI is currently at the Yellow COVID-19 vulnerability scale, people should look for posted certifications of compliance with level Yellow requirements at restaurants.

The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s Bureau of Environmental Health inspects and then gives compliant restaurants signed certificates of compliance, which includes the restaurant’s sanitation permit number for reference.

The CHCC-BEH, which regulates food handlers and sanitation permitting, among other responsibilities, has begun on-site visits to restaurants to issue certifications of compliance for dine-in services.

To ensure businesses are compliant, CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña said that they are working with the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and with the businesses themselves. CHCC-BEH is set to speak at the Chamber’s general membership meeting this week.

“Our BEH team is the one that’s preparing, whether it’s signs that show that this restaurant has gone through that training as they will be basically identified through color coding [in terms of] meeting the yellow requirements,” Muña said, adding that they are also meeting with the restaurants. Should restaurant owners have questions, the CHCC-BEH will be able to assist.

Level Yellow: Guidance for restaurants

Under level Yellow, restaurants are to require reservations to control volume, and should maintain records of one point of contact for each party for contact tracing purposes. Self-service food or drinks, such as buffet-style dining or beverage refill stations, are not allowed.

The guideline for restaurants that was released last Friday advises people wanting to dine-in to make reservations, limit parties to four people, and to respect a 6-foot distance from the other parties who are also dining.

CHCC also recommends that restaurant patrons choose outdoor seating if available, and to check if the restaurant accepts food orders ahead of time to reduce the wait time.

Restaurants must also implement social distancing through the posting of “one-way” flow signs, for entrance and then for exit, for crowd control; as well as of physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks, to ensure that customers remain at least 6 feet apart in queues.

Restaurants should also discontinue preset tables; clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces; and wash, rinse, and sanitize all surfaces that come in contact with food after each use. They must also ensure that there are supplies to support healthy hand hygiene practices for both employees and customers.

Hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and use of face coverings by employees when near other employees and customers must also be strictly enforced. Employees with symptoms must be sent home.

All restaurant staff must also complete the online ServSafe trainings specific to COVID-19 transmission reduction within one week of offering services.

Signages on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 should also be posted, as well as signs on how to properly wash hands and how to properly wear a face covering; and a notice that no one with symptoms will be permitted inside should also be posted.

Citizen-watch

Restaurants that will be found to be non-compliant may be ordered closed by CHCC-BEH. According to the guidance, “if you believe a restaurant is operating out of compliance with the rules, you may contact 664-4677 to alert regulators.”

With the restaurants’ reopening, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres expressed appreciation to the community for strictly following the COVID-19 directives in place.

“I just want to thank, again, the community, for how they’ve been receptive to the directive, the changes, and just being part of the reopening, and their patience and understanding of the new norm. I just cannot emphasize how critical our community has played and made the CNMI a real place that we all can call home,” he said in an interview.

Restaurant owners can request an inspection for compliance certification online at the CHCC’s COVID-19 page at chcc.gov.mp or can call the CHCC BEH at 664-4870/2/3 between 7:30am and 4:30pm from Monday through Friday.

Iva Maurin | Author
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com
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