NH restaurant owners face uncertain months ahead as cold weather nears

Torri Donley

Restaurant owners in New Hampshire are preparing for the challenges of colder weather, when expanded outdoor dining will go away. >> Download the free WMUR app Sign up for our Newsletters A day after Gov. Chris Sununu announced guidelines to ease the 6-foot distancing between dining parties, some restaurant owners […]

Restaurant owners in New Hampshire are preparing for the challenges of colder weather, when expanded outdoor dining will go away.

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A day after Gov. Chris Sununu announced guidelines to ease the 6-foot distancing between dining parties, some restaurant owners gathered Friday to talk about the challenges of the next few months.

“It’s very humbling for all of us to be in this position together, of not knowing if we’re going to survive this winter,” said Evan Mallett, of The Black Trumpet.

The new guidelines allow restaurants to install protective barriers between tables to ease the 6-foot distance requirement. The barriers could help restaurants get closer to 100% capacity.

“This is just an example of what a booth back divider might look like,” said Mike Somers, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association, as he showed a clear divider.

A taller sample was on display that could roll into place.

“It basically says it has to be a rigid, non-porous surface that can be easily sanitized, and it has to reach 6 feet off the floor,” Somers said.

“It’ll help with the 6-foot separation without a doubt,” said Stacey Marchionni, of the Revolution Tap Room. “My concern is the cost of them.”

Short-term outdoor dining over the summer meant buying tables, barriers and insurance.

“The state is doing everything it can, and this is a great example, but what maybe isn’t necessarily being considered is how each of these changes requires us to shift, but also spend money,” Mallett said.

For restaurants that survived the summer and are now heading into the fall, the big concern is what will happen this winter.

“Our real big concern is our employees, maintaining health benefits, keeping people employed throughout the winter as we hit the off-season,” said Steve Newick, of Newick’s Restaurants.

An industry known for pivoting is getting ready to do it again.

“Let’s get creative,” Somers said. “That’s what our industry’s known for. Let’s figure it out. I think we can do it.”

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