food & drink

Restaurants as law enforcers

If this were not a column dedicated to the pleasures of the table, it might be possible to ignore the Covid-19 debate and write about cheerier matters. But there is not a country in which the restaurant business has come through intact (except perhaps New Zealand), obliged as it is to both serve customers and protect employees. Which is why some establishments appear to take minimal precautions while others go overboard to practise the most extreme safety measures. This is the point. There are no standards or guidelines. Until you walk through the door you have no idea what awaits you.

In Spain, fortunately, people are overwhelmingly peaceful and rarely confrontational, unlike some other European countries or the USA. In many American states, for example, customers must always wear face masks except while actually eating. Not an unreasonable request if social distancing cannot be enforced.

Unsurprisingly, in this crazy gun culture, there have been cases of extreme violence. In Colorado a diner shot the cook who insisted he wear a mask. Restaurants have to enforce the law, unfair as that may be, and for every customer not wearing a mask they are fined $1,000.

It is hard to get used to being ordered about by people to whom previously they had given orders. Waiters now have to stand their ground against irate customers who will not submit to what 'some flunkey' tells them. Message to customers: If you are not prepared to wear a mask please go somewhere else. No-one is happy wearing a face mask but what is the alternative?