Monday marked the reopening of restaurants, bars and casinos in Montana after a month and a half of mandated closures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. In downtown Bozeman, some eateries are opening at half capacity and with new social distancing guidelines.
Tim Johnson: My name’s Tim Johnson.
Rachel Cramer: And what are you drinking right now?
TJ: Dogfish Head, IPA.
RC: So are you a regular at The Cannery?
TJ: Yeah, I work right next door so a lot of times after work we’ll come over here.
RC: What does it feel like after, what, like six weeks or so of not being, being able to come here and then finally it's open again?
TJ: Oh man, it's great. It's definitely a relief, you know? It kind of feels like we're getting back to a sense of normalcy.
Tana Koelzer: My name is Tana Koelzer, manager at The Cannery and Burger Bob's in downtown Bozeman.
RC: Today's a big deal because you're...
TK: ... kind of open.
RC: Yeah. How are you feeling right now?
TK: Mostly stressed. It's been a lot of work. It's been a lot of anxiety. It's been a lot of reconfiguring and trying to play by a new set of rules while worrying about how we're going to keep our customers happy.
RC: And I mean there's a pretty big crowd right here. Is that what you were expecting, or was it hard to know?
TK: No, it was, we've had a lot of really great outpouring and outreach from the community, text messages, phone calls. The whole time we were shut down: ‘When are you opening? What are restrictions? When can we come back?’ I think actually our biggest problem is going to be later on when it becomes more of the happy hour or the social hour. How do we tell our wonderful friends and customers, ‘Thank you for coming in. We cannot accommodate you right now because we can only have so many people in this area at one time. We can only have so many people per table and we just don't have the physical space.’
RC: Do you mind just introducing yourself, your name and position here?
Chad: My name's Chad. I work here.
RC: OK, and can you explain where we are right now?
Chad: We’re at Bar Nine in Bozeman, Montana. It's a Monday. How many people go out on a Monday? Not a lot. But I anticipate by the weekend people will start to feel a little bit better, and people will be out to eat and drink and socialize a little bit, but in terms of a vibrant, lively, super social setting, probably not. It's going to be. People are going to put their safety first.
RC: Would you be able to share your name and what you're eating right now?
Steve: Yeah. I can’t remember. Oh, fish tacos. Yeah. My name's Steve, by the way.
RC: How are you feeling about all of the changes with stores reopening or restaurants?
Steve: Actually I really don’t think about it very much. You know, we can't actually just let something like this stop us from continuing our daily lives. So, you know, to see people out and about, you know, it's refreshing, and it's actually exciting to see people like that.
RC: Thank you. Enjoy your lunch!
Pete Strom: So my name’s Pete Strom and I’m here at Shine and La Parilla.
RC: And you're one of the owners, correct?
PS: I'm one of the owners. Yes.
RC: So how are you feeling today with being able to open back up again?
PS: I guess it's a mix. Exciting and a little anxious and, there's some concern that, you know, we don't want to be doing this too soon, and it's also that challenge of 50 percent [capacity] is better than nothing, but most restaurants aren't designed to operate on 50 percent [capacity] and still may be viable. So the real question is how does it, you know, where does it go from here? But we're thrilled to actually be able to do, again, what we do, which is provide great hospitality and an experience for people that brightens their day and connects them.
Rachel Cramer reported this story while wearing a mask, and disinfected her equipment between speaking to people. She recorded sources from a distance.