Maryland restaurant's new tables have huge inner tubes that make social distancing look fun
By David Williams, CNN
(CNN) -- A popular waterfront restaurant in Maryland has come up with a way to keep customers at a safe social distance that actually looks pretty fun.
Fish Tales Bar & Grill in Ocean City has bought new "bumper tables" that are surrounded by large inner tubes to keep diners from getting too close.
It's one of the creative ways restaurants are coming up with to keep their customers safe as states begin to ease restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
At Fish Tales Bar & Grill, the custom-built tables look like huge 45 vinyl records and are on wheels, so people can walk in the restaurant's parking lot and bar area and mingle, while enjoying a cocktail or some food.
Maryland began reopening parts of the state on Friday as part of its multi-phased recovery plan. Under Stage One, retail businesses, manufacturers, houses of worship, and personal service businesses like barbers and hair salons are able to operate with limited capacity and other safety precautions.
Restaurants in the state are currently only allowed to offer delivery, takeout or drive-through service.
States that have opened for dining in have added restrictions. In Ohio, for example, tables need to be 6 feet apart or have barriers separating diners.
Fish Tales Bar & Grill owners Shawn and Donna Harman told CNN that they'll use the tables for customers who are waiting for tables or would normally sit at the bar.
"I mean, it's a novelty, it's cool. It's a great photo opportunity for them," Shawn Harman said.
They said it will also make it easier for restaurant staff to enforce social distancing.
"If you put the two tables together, you can't get within 6 feet of each other -- and it's fun," Donna Harman said.
Her cousin runs Revolution Event and Design and Production, the Baltimore company that is building the tables. Donna Harman said they talked about the idea for a couple of weeks and then she ordered 10 for the restaurant.
The company also hopes to sell them to other restaurants and rent them for events.
Outdoor dining still isn't yet allowed, so the Harmans aren't sure when they'll be able to start using the tables.
Fish Tales just started offering takeout service on Friday, after delaying its season opening because of the pandemic. The restaurant usually opens around Easter and closes for the season in October.
"It just really didn't make sense for us to open any sooner because it's been a cold, wet spring, and there was really nobody to sell to," Shawn Harman said.
He said the crowds are starting to pick up, but they're hoping they can have outdoor seating in time to feed the hordes of Memorial Day tourists they're expecting.
Ocean City has already had to cancel or postpone a lot of big tourist events, but the Harmans said they'll be able to hold on.
"As far as the season goes, we don't anticipate anywhere near a normal summer, and we're prepared for that," Donna Harman said.
"Our goal for this year is to be here next year. It's as simple as that," Shawn Harman said. "We just want to make sure our employees are taken care of, and they can make enough money to get through the winter."
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