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How it feels to eat under corona conditions / Lena Anzenhofer

Restaurants in Berlin have been allowed to reopen since last Friday – subject to strict conditions.

Waiters have to wear masks, as do customers walking through the restaurant.

Despite many weeks of closure, only a few guests are on site.

It is 6 p.m. and I take three pairs of shoes on and off. The choice falls on ballerinas and I already know that I will regret that later. In the end, I only made myself chic for the supermarket, but this evening takes going out to a new level: after a good two-month Corona break, restaurants in Berlin can reopen.

My favorite tapas bar in Berlin was closed until last Thursday. “The failed city”, and: “Then we’ll be gone soon,” emblazoned for a long time on the large window panes; an allusion to the fact that Berlin companies with more than ten employees do not receive emergency aid. But on that Friday evening, May 15th, they were there.

I am prepared. Small bags of salt and pepper have been in my wallet for a few days; after all, they are prohibited on the tables in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, for example. There is at least one mouthguard in each of my pockets. Disinfectant – antiviral, of course! – I have owned it ever since.

Reservations are not mandatory – but recommended

My friend and I wait in front of an almost empty restaurant. Exciting: we are placed. After endless evenings with food in front of the TV, I also like to wait five minutes. Then finally: “Have you made a reservation?” Asks an employee. “Yeah, sure,” I say a bit proudly and a little bit snapped, because that’s a matter of course. “Can we sit outside?” I ask, regretting thinking about my ballet flats.

In fact, reservations in Berlin are not mandatory, just as there is no ban on salt and pepper shakers. Visitors are only allowed to enter the restaurant alone or accompanied by people from their own or another household. Waiters must wear masks. There must be a minimum distance of 1.5 meters between the tables and chairs. It is recommended that a list is given which can be used to trace the chains of infection. The opening hours are limited to 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and laminated cards are on the tables with a QR code that leads to the menu: the customer can order online and have the food delivered to the table.

Delivery service, pre-orders and vouchers: the restaurant has reinvented itself

But we don’t sit for long, there are also two menus on the table. The waiter takes drinks orders, which takes a while: “Everything is still a little unusual, with the mask and such …”, he says and smiles apologetically. The mask swallows his voice. We smile back. Everyone understands.

The restaurant came up with alternatives to try to overcome the losing streak. Recently there is a delivery service, orders for collection, vouchers and pre-orders so that it does not take that long – they wish their guests to only stay 1.5 hours.

The on-site situation is a bit bizarre: the waiters with face masks, the manager with a visor. On the way through the restaurant, the customer also has to wear mouthguards, disinfect his hands beforehand and has to find his way through the waiters, and if necessary authorize them again: “Yes, please, do you want?” One of me asks with wide eyes when I’m on the way to the locations. “Um, I just want to go to the bathroom …” I stammer a little unsure. He looks at me. I look at him. He hadn’t recognized me.

After two hours, the spook is over again

The restaurant is gradually filling up – but not the way it was before Corona times. Otherwise there were several groups of visitors at one table, now everyone is sitting on their own.

Around 9 p.m. at least all the tables outside are occupied, but only a few inside. Occasionally guests come who only take out a glass of wine and stand in front of the restaurant; in the midst of pedestrians with shopping bags, people who walk up and down the street in a stylish way, who have a lively conversation. It almost seems as if nothing has ever happened.

But only half an hour later, the employees start clearing the tables, cleaning glasses and disinfecting tables. This restaurant must also close at 10 p.m. My feet are cold, my friend’s cigarette smoke is in the air. The streets empty again. It is Friday evening, just before 10 p.m. We had been allowed to sit there longer than we wanted. I want to go home.

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