For most restaurants, dine-in customers are the lifeblood of their operations, whether it’s a mall-based eatery that relies on walk-in traffic or a high-end establishment serving elaborate dishes not conducive to takeout.
Metro Manila restaurants were especially hard hit during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) implemented in mid-March as a preventive to the spread of COVID-19. While they could remain open for delivery and takeout, no dine-in services were allowed. After three months, restrictions were eased, with restaurants allowed to open up to only 30% dine-in capacity, as long as social distancing and safety protocols are followed.
For the past month, various government agencies, especially local government units (LGUs), have been actively inspecting restaurants to ensure compliance of these protocols. Memorandum Circular No. 20-39 issued by DTI observes, “Based on the compliance monitoring activities of the DTI, DOT, DOLE and LGUs, restaurants, fast foods, and dine-in establishments have consistently exhibited 90% to 100% compliance rate on mandatory health protocols imposed under MC No. 20-37 since resumption of operations on 15 June 2020.”
This is good news for restaurant owners who have gone all out in training their staff and adapting their premises to the new protocols.
According to the circular, for areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), restaurants and fastfood businesses can now increase to a maximum of fifty percent (50%) of their dine-in services. For areas under modified GCQ or MGCQ, maximum capacity, restaurants can go up to 75%, provided, of course, the establishments continue to comply with social distancing and health protocols.
In addition, the DTI circular recommends lifting liquor bans and easing curfew hours, both of which have served as additional deterrents for the public from dining out. Beginning July 21, the circular cites, “Restaurants and fastfood businesses shall be permitted to serve all kinds of food and beverages, including alcoholic drinks; Provided that a customer shall be allowed a maximum of two (2) additional servings of any alcoholic beverage.”
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However, the DTI directive does not override any liquor bans instituted by individual LGUs. As of now, the Makati City liquor ban remains in effect, along with Quezon City’s ordinance allowing liquor sales only between 1 to 5 pm.
The same goes for curfew hours, with the aforementioned DTI circular declaring, “All restaurants and fastfood businesses shall be allowed to operate until 11:00 p.m. Thus, LGUs are enjoined to adjust curfew hours up to 12 midnight to allow greater daily turnover of dine-in services and enhance income opportunities for workers.”
Note that this is simply a DTI recommendation as a way to extend dinner service. But as with liquor bans, LGUs’ own declared curfew hours take precedence over this DTI directive.
Liquor bans and curfew hours notwithstanding, the increased dine-in capacity now allowed by the government is certainly a welcome development for restaurant owners in their continued efforts to gain the trust and confidence of the dining public, and therefore, to keep their businesses alive.