CHAMPAIGN COUNTY (WCIA) — As restaurants and bars welcome diners on Friday, they won’t exactly be opening their doors as seating will be outside.
But, there is one door diners will be able to open: the restroom.
How much thought diners have given that notion is unclear, but it’s been on the minds of restaurant owners and the health department.
“The difference for us, just one in, one out,” explained Justin Taylor, the owner of J.T. Walker’s Restaurant and Sports Bar in Mahomet. “But, most of our bathrooms are set up that way anyway.”
It’s one of the ways Taylor says diners can feel more comfortable about visiting his establishment.
“We also don’t prefer to have the blowers,” he said.
He’s talking about the air-circulating hand dryers.
And as far as Harshal Mahajan is concerned, that’s a smart move.
“They are good at drying your hands, but they also throw away particles on your hands and from your hands to other places on the bathroom floor,” the University of Illinois research assistant professor of applied health sciences explained.
He says that’s in part because restrooms are poorly ventilated.
“It’s not just the smells and gases, but it’s also the infection that’s lingering in the air,” Mahajan said.
That’s something on the mind of Jim Roberts with the Champaign Urbana Public Health District.
“If you can’t maintain that 6-foot distance, wear a mask if you’re in the restroom,” the director of environmental health explained. “Don’t spend more than 10 to 15 minutes in the restroom.”
It’s not simply about hand dryers and paper towel.
Is the toilet touch-free?
How you are able to wash your hands is also something to consider: will you have to touch handles on the sink?
What about a soap dispenser?
Will there be an attendant?
Do you have to pull open the door?
How often is the restroom being cleaned?
While these are all questions to be addressed by each restaurant, as far as the health department is concerned, restaurants reopening – even with limited outdoor seating – is about getting back to normal as much as possible.
“It is not something that’s exceptional, like a lot of the requirements that you had mentioned about hands-free, are not required, like in the food code, so we’re gonna try to go back to pre-covid times,” Roberts said.
Taylor says there won’t be many physical changes to the way his restrooms were setup prior to the pandemic, but you should rest assured his staff will be diligent when it comes to sanitizing high-contact surfaces.
He also has a professional cleaning crew come in every night.
“Restaurants in general, and especially in Champaign County, are always held to a pretty high standard as far as cleanliness,” he said. “So for me, and other restaurant owners I know, this is just added to what we do on a day by day basis.”
CUPHD says it’s not putting a greater emphasis on checking restaurant and bar restrooms during its routine checks, but it will be making sure employees are wearing masks and policies are in place to monitor employees aren’t coming to work when they’re sick.