Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Al Fresco Dining Is Back…What do we do now?

By the Gastronomes

Al Fresco Dining Is Back…What do we do now?

This whole pandemic has put a whole new twist on “Dining Out” but it looks like we are headed in the right direction as far as restaurants being able to open is concerned. There have been so many rumors about what has to take place by both the establishment and their diners in order to comply with CDC and the
DMV orders it’s hard to decipher what we can and cannot do and when we can do it. Not all areas in the DMV, including ours, had been given the go-ahead for outside dining due to the high numbers of COVID-19 cases at the time of this writing. IF the numbers are “good” by the time this issue goes to print, outside dining will have been available for three days. Since the Old Town Crier is a regional publication we have readers in parts of the Commonwealth and Maryland who have been enjoying al fresco dining since May 15th and it has been met with mixed reviews.

After spending way too much time reading posts on a local “Foody” Facebook page related to the question “How is everyone feeling about outdoor dining starting?”, it appears that the sentiment is that it is too early for the majority of the 195 Alexandrians who responded. Most are very happy with curbside and takeout and said even though they have the option to dine al fresco, they are sticking with it. Many have concerns about people being too close, not everyone wearing a mask (hard to eat and drink with your mask on) and the potential for “crowds”. I was going cross-eyed reading the posts – some of them had very “Karen” and “Chad” tones that were entertaining – but it basically boils down to a matter of personal choice. The choices run the gamut – there are those who said they wouldn’t even consider takeout or curbside if an establishment also had outdoor dining available to “Hell yes. I’m there!” I’m not sure if everyone in that post thread actually understood what was going to happen in order to put both employees and guests at ease as we phase into our “new” normal. As I was painstakingly trying to get some factual information for this piece so I could answer some of the questions that popped up, the email Gods blessed me with a message in my inbox from the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association. Here is what they had to say:

The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association (VRLTA) has worked with health departments and restaurateurs to launch Virginia’s Restaurant Promise, which details ways that restaurants and diners can ensure a safe dining experience going forward.


Virginia’s Restaurant Promise

The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association (VRLTA), Virginia health officials, and restaurants have partnered to develop The Virginia Restaurant Promise, a set of commitments to employees and customers. To ensure everyone’s safety as we welcome you back into our restaurant, we ask that we make the following promises to each other.

Reopening guidance requires restaurants to post signage detailing efforts to keep patrons and staff safe and healthy.


  • We will lead in safe sanitation practices. All team members are trained in safe food handling and sanitation, and we will have a certified manager on every shift.
  • All Team members will pass a wellness check before they are allowed to work prior to any shift. Sick employees will be prohibited in the workplace.
  • Customer-facing employees will wear masks, as required by VDH.
  • All seating options will comply with state-mandated physical distancing guidelines, including a minimum of six feet between parties. Parties of 10+ patrons are prohibited. Bars may be utilized to provide service; no seating at the bar itself will be permitted.
  • Appropriate physical distancing will be maintained inside/outside of the establishment. If space does not allow, customers will be asked to wait in their cars or other off-premise areas.
  • Sanitizing stations will be available to customers at points of entry and exit.
  • We will clean and sanitize all common areas regularly, using CDC guidelines, and deep clean/sanitize our facilities every day. Tables and chairs will be cleaned and sanitized after every use. Place settings, menus, utensils, and condiments will either be single-use or cleaned and sanitized after every use. There will be no self-service of food except beverages.


  • If you have been exposed recently or have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, or shortness of breath), use our contactless delivery options and do not enter our restaurant.
  • You will use the hand sanitizer or hand washing station every time you enter.
  • You will always practice Virginia state-mandated physical distancing guidelines.
  • If you have underlying health conditions or are otherwise concerned, use our curbside or delivery options.
  • If you have any questions, ask for a manager, who will be happy to assist you.

For more information about the VRLTA go to their website at Vrlta.org.

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