COVID-19 REQUIREMENT

Enforcing social distancing a major challenge for reopened restaurants

Couples who live together say it is illogical to separate them in eateries

In Summary

• Restaurants must adhere to Health Ministry's social distancing directive or else their licences will be cancelled.

• Some indignant customers assert that since they come from the same household, they are not a risk to anybody when seated together.

A Cafe Deli branch in Nairobi
A Cafe Deli branch in Nairobi
Image: ENOS TECHE

Social distancing, especially for family members, is among the challenges the reopened restaurants are facing.

Much as they would like to have the family seated at a table, the restaurants must adhere to the Health Ministry's social distancing directive or else their licences will be cancelled.

Café Deli's Tumani House branch, for instance, reopened on Saturday.  The manager spent most of the day explaining to adamant customers why they must adhere to social distancing.

Some of the indignant customers asserted that since they come from the same household, they are not a risk to anybody when seated together.

“It has been a challenge convincing customers who walk in together to sit separately. But laws are laws and we have to adhere to Ministry of Health directive or risk having our licence revoked,” Café Deli chief executive Obado Obadoh said.

Eventually, such customers half-heartedly agree to keep the social distance. To them, social distancing in restaurants makes no sense.

“Some of these directives are not logical. I sleep on the same bed with my wife, spend the whole day around her but when I get to a restaurant, I’m told she has to sit at another table, one metre away,” complained Alfred Maina at Café Deli.

Obadoh was sympathetic, but it at the same time said it was not easy to tell whether a man and a woman arriving at an eatery are husband and wife.

“It would be great if the government considered couples or people who live together to sit close at a table. It is, however, risky without proof that these people come from the same household,” he said.

Another challenge is convincing customers to leave restaurants by 4pm, three hours to curfew time.

According to Obadoh, clients do not understand why they should be shooed away three hours to lockdown even when it is explained to them that staff need time to tidy up, reconcile records and also leave for home before curfew.

“We would love to keep the customers at the restaurant till 6pm if that was possible, but there are so many reasons we insist that the last order is taken at 3.30pm,” he said.

“It takes about an hour to reconcile our records and clear for the day.  We allow our staff at least two hours to get to their houses before curfew time. We also ensure that we open by 7am,” he added.

The situation was replicated in many other Central Business District restaurants like Java House and CJs.

At CJs, some customers demanded to be let in "as there are empty seats". Tables look unoccupied due to the adherence of social distancing requirement.

 

- mwaniki fm