Don’t let social distancing requirements stop your small business.
Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends maintaining a distance of 6 feet between people to prevent the spread of COVID-19, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for small businesses to continue operating while meeting this recommendation.
Take a look at these small businesses that are using creative approaches to address social distancing challenges brought on by the pandemic.
On top of critical safety measures, such as on-site rapid COVID-19 testing and seating guests by family or pod for wedding venues, Lynn Easton of Easton Events — a full-service wedding and event design and planning company with locations in Charleston, SC and Charlottesville, VA — encourages the use of a “comfort” band system. Easton says these bands are essentially color-coded wristbands that will let guests “read the room” and express their comfort level with social interactions. Below, are examples of suggested band colors and their meanings.
- Red or Pink: “Kindly keep your social distance, but I am smiling behind my mask!”
- Blue or Yellow: “I am comfortable in a group, but no hugging, please!”
- Green or White: “I have antibodies—time to celebrate!”
Creative concepts like these allow guests to signal their social preferences in a way that is both polite and effective.
Fish Tails Bar and Grill
Forget about plastic partitions between tables to separate restaurant guests during the pandemic. Restaurants are now getting creative with guest seating. Ocean City, MD’s Fish Tails Bar and Grill, for instance, seats diners outside at a “bumper table”— an adapted tractor inner tube. The tables are equipped with wheels, and diners can bump into each other from 6 feet apart to maintain social distancing guidelines.
“It’s like a big baby walker,” Fish Tales co-owner Shawn Harman told NPR’s Morning Edition. “There’s a large tractor inner tube that surrounds a doughnut-shaped countertop. You’re standing essentially in the middle of the doughnut hole.”
Inman Family Wines
Kathleen Inman, owner and winemaker of Inman Family Wines in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, had to pivot her business when the pandemic hit. Inman moved in person wine tastings to virtual wine tastings for her club members over online platforms, such as Zoom. Members would pick up their wines at the club beforehand, and then log into the scheduled event at home. This allowed some 30 fellow wine enthusiasts to interact from afar and hear Inman introduce her wines from her California tasting room. Now that’s social distancing at its finest.
The pandemic is altering the way yoga studios serve their clients. So much so that Sue Parsley of Lenox Yoga, in Lenox, MA, had to revamp her entire business plan. Parsley now offers classes outdoors. To adhere to social distancing requirements, she ensures yoga mats are positioned at least 6 feet from one another. Parsley believes the pandemic is an opportunity to learn and let go of our preconceived notions. “It’s about letting the river take us where we need to go,” she said.
When outbreaks occur, businesses may need to temporarily shut down to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This is especially true for establishments that would find it difficult to social distance due to limited square footage. Boutiques are a good example. But shutdowns didn’t stop Darling Boutique, an award-winning curated boutique offering women’s consignment and handmade local artisan goods in Charlottesville, VA. Instead of having customers browse the company’s selection in person, they set up a video call to enable virtual shopping. They also let customers shop and buy items from social posts through DMs, emails and phone calls. To promote social distancing even further, the company offers daily curbside pickup and free mail delivery with minimum purchase.
Although dance studios face many challenges during the pandemic, Durango Dance keeps on dancing. Miriam Morgan, director of Durango Dance based in Durango, CO., uses colorful tape to create 6-foot zones on the dance floor. This allows dancers to practice routines while maintaining a safe social distance. Students can also dance from home by joining the class virtually.
Cyclista Espresso Bar and Roastery
With social distancing requirements in place, many restaurants and cafés aren’t able to operate as they normally would, but it isn’t stopping Steve Stannard of New Zealand’s Cyclista Espresso Bar and Roastery. Stannard uses a toy train, equipped with polystyrene cup holders inside the carriage, to provide contactless service amid COVID-19 restrictions. Once the coffee is securely placed in the carriage, the train reverses backwards over a long table towards the café’s front door to waiting customers.
These businesses are clearly addressing social distance requirements with creativity, and you can too, with some effort and a good plan.