KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri-area restaurants got a taste of freedom Friday as the city’s revised COVID-19 emergency order went into effect.
Gone are the year-long capacity restrictions and social-distancing requirements, giving restaurant owners more freedom to seat more people.
It’s a moment many restaurant owners have been anticipating amid a difficult year for the industry.
“It’s going to be so great to see people steadily streaming through our doors with smiles on their faces, patronizing our businesses again," David Lopez, president of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, said, "folks that haven’t been with us for quite some time, so it’s very exciting."
Skyler Galvin, a customer Friday at District Pour House and Kitchen, said it's a day she's been anxious for as well.
"I’m so ready to go out," Galvin said. "I’ve been stuck at home, so this is awesome."
Lopez said while there are no longer capacity restrictions, a lot of restaurants are going to be careful with how they seat patrons.
“After speaking with a lot of restaurateurs and general managers throughout the city, we’re going to just kind of gently get us into this, so that people can feel comfortable again," Lopez said. “Yes, we're able to do full capacity, but we want folks to feel safe, we want them to feel comfortable.”
Some restaurant customers in KCMO on Friday said they could tell the staff was doing everything possible to follow safety protocols.
"It does feel safe and everyone is wearing their mask when they come in," Nyla Foster said. "It also feels good for us to be able to be with friends and eat and enjoy Kansas City."
Lopez, who is also the general manager of Manny’s Mexican restaurant, thanked city leaders, including Mayor Quinton Lucas and City Manager Brian Platt, for their work with the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association to create compromises so restaurants could keep their doors open.
“We worked really, really, really hard to compromise and we worked together to keep our doors spinning all for now, all for today, so that people can just get back to feeling good and come back through our businesses again,” Lopez said.
When Lucas announced the relaxed order Monday, he said it’s similar to the order in place last summer, and he hopes it will help some of the small businesses that have been struggling through the pandemic.
"Our industry has been through so much, and the way we’ve rallied together to help all of us as restaurateurs and small businesses, it's what makes Kansas City so special and so unique,” Lopez said.
KCMO's new emergency order — which has been mirrored in Clay, Jackson, Platte and Wyandotte counties — runs through May 28. It still requires masks to be worn indoors, except when actively eating or drinking.