Omaha restaurant wonders if reopening is worth risk, cost amid pandemic

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- Restaurants learned that Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts will allow them to partially re-open May 4 as part of a new state health measure.

But a couple of Omaha bar and restaurant employees say this isn’t the end-all solution they were looking for.

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They say if anything -- it complicates their situation.

Bret Schnittgrund and Ryan Ernst run The Session Room at 14th and Cuming Streets.

They expected to fill this space with fans of college basketball, baseball and the Olympic swim trials this spring.

Instead, they’re rearranging tables, removing bar stools, and deciding whether to re-open May 4.

“To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re six feet apart. you’re still touching the same things, going to the same bathrooms, you’re still interacting with people every time you turn around. we’ll follow every guideline and make it as safe as possible for everyone,” Schnittgrund said. “Ryan and I throw this around. Is it going to be worth it?”

The governor announced new health measures Friday afternoon -- allowing dine-in options under strict conditions:

Limit occupancy to 50 percent. Six feet separation between seated customers. Cap groups at six people and eliminate bar seating.

In fact, no alcohol unless you’re eating a meal.

“We’re just thinking about it. we don’t know. Ryan and I have to crunch numbers and figure if it’s worth it or not,” Schnittgrund said.

“If we do open, safety is the number one thing,” Ernst said.

And the restaurant staff will be required to wear masks and take the temperatures of everybody inside.

“There’s a lot of things to take into account to make sure we comply with everything,” Schnittgrund said.

That’s if a manager like Ryan can convince his former employees to come back.

“You got guys sitting at home making good money doing nothing to coming back and work for a wage they may not think is worth coming back for,” Ernst said.

And supplying the food is another unknown.

“You have to sit back and wonder what their supply and demand is with this whole thing shut down. Are they going to be able to ramp up just as fast as we do and get products you need so that you’re not removing items off your menu?”

“That would be the worst thing that could happen.”

The two have been in contact with other owners across Omaha who are also scratching their heads hours after the governor’s announcement.

The business partners appreciate the option to re-open is on the table -- but whether it’s worth the trouble is something they’ll have to sit on.

“It’s still up in the air for sure.”

These new health measures also prohibit self-serve buffets and salad bars.

Restaurant staff must serve the food directly to customers.

Restaurants have 10 days to get ready if they want to open May 4.