Ohio restaurant installs shower curtains between tables to encourage social distancing

This eatery has an innovative solution to encourage social distancing.

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By Kerry Breen

After weeks of being restricted to carry-out and delivery service, restaurants in Ohio will begin welcoming dine-in customers again on May 21. But things may look a little different.

Twisted Citrus, an eatery that specializes in breakfast and brunch in North Canton, Ohio, has come up with an innovative solution to keep customers from accidentally touching each other — plastic shower curtains have been installed to create barriers between tables.

"It would have been impossible, financially and otherwise, to operate if we can only have eight or 10 tables in there," Twisted Citrus co-owner Kim Shapiro told TODAY Food. "It wouldn't have worked."

Shapiro said that due to the size of the restaurant, it would have been impossible to maintain enough social distancing between tables. Twisted Citrus/Facebook

In order to reopen, restaurants in the state are being charged with making sure that diners can eat safely, maintain social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19.

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Shapiro said that the redesign choice was inspired by airplanes, citing a mock-up she had seen that used Plexiglass to separate seats.

"We were looking at Plexiglass, but it gets heavy and then I didn't want people to get cut, you know, all those kinds of things," she said. "And more importantly, we're very busy on Saturdays and Sundays, but during the week less so, and I wanted something that was maybe retractable."

Shapiro said that she and her staff were able to hang the shower curtains from PVC pipes, which hang from the ceiling using fishing wire. The vinyl curtain is see-through, which she said was an important part of the design. The curtains will also be cleaned between parties.

"I think what people are missing about going out to restaurants is being around people and people watching, and that kind of stuff," Shapiro said.

Shapiro said it was important to her that the curtain be retractable and see-through. Twisted Citrus/Facebook

In addition to hanging curtains, Shapiro said her restaurant is currently in the process of installing hand sanitation stations and issuing custom masks to employees. Employees will also have their temperatures checked when they come into work each day, though Shapiro said she will not be asking customers to submit to a temperature check.

"We just think that's a step too far," she said, noting that none of the restaurant's employees or regular customers have reported being diagnosed with the virus.

Other new measures at Twisted Citrus will include the usage of disposable paper menus and inviting customers to look at the restaurant's website on their own smartphones for more details about the menu. Shapiro said that, so far, customers have been responsive to the restaurant's safety precautions.

"People that are comfortable going out anyways are appreciate and like the idea," Shapiro said, adding that there have been some comments from people who have said they still don't plan on dining out.

"I was trying to come up with something, not necessarily to convince people to leave their home, but to let people know that as an organization we're trying to come up with a creative and useful way to keep the guests, and more importantly our employees, safe."