Maryland Restaurant Floats Social Distancing Dining Plan: Inner Tube Tables | KUNC

Maryland Restaurant Floats Social Distancing Dining Plan: Inner Tube Tables

May 22, 2020
Originally published on May 22, 2020 3:41 pm

A Maryland bar is exploring ways to keep its dine-in customers social distancing. Its solution: "bumper tables."

In anticipation of its reopening, Fish Tales Bar & Grill in Ocean City commissioned tables for one that ensconce patrons in jumbo inner tubes. Diners, seated inside the wheeled tables, can scoot around and bump into each other from 6 feet apart in keeping with 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."

The idea came from his wife's cousin, Erin Cermak, who owns a company called Revolution Events in Baltimore.

When the pandemic started, event planning stopped, so Cermak had to get creative.

"The idea was basically just trying to get ourselves back to events," she said. "So we kind of drew out 6 [feet] on the ground just to kind of visualize it and then worked from there."

Her company is making inventions such as the tables as well as face shields and Plexiglas dividers.

Harman said he isn't sure how Fish Tales will use the bumper tables. Maryland is still limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery orders, with no plans for reopening (whether diners are wrapped in inner tubes or otherwise) until at least the end of May.

"We primarily see them as kind of a novelty," he said. "It's the kind of out-of-the box thinking that you have to do to survive now."

But Harman said he can wait until it's considered safe to introduce the novel attraction to customers.

"We don't wanna go too fast and go backward," he said. "Any way you look at it, that's foolish and more expensive than taking your time and doing it one time."

At least for now, his staff has been having fun testing the tables out.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We report next on a restaurant that's trying to find creative ways to socially distance customers. Shawn Harmon co-owns Fish Tales bar and grill in Ocean City, Md., and has brand-new tables that are different.

SHAWN HARMON: It's like a big baby walker (laughter). There's a large tractor inner tube that surrounds a doughnut-shaped countertop, I guess you would call it. So you're standing, essentially, in the middle of the doughnut hole.

INSKEEP: OK. The table is on wheels so the diners, once they're in there, can scoot around and bump into each other without getting too close. His staff tested these out.

(CHEERING)

HARMON: We've primarily seen - it's kind of a novelty. You know, it's a kind of out-of-the-box thinking that you have to do to survive now.

NOEL KING, HOST:

The idea came from his wife's cousin, who owns a company called Revolution Events in Baltimore. Erin Cermak says when the pandemic started, event planning stopped.

ERIN CERMAK: The idea was basically just trying to get ourselves back to events. And so we, you know, kind of drew out 6 foot on the ground just to kind of visualize it and then worked from there.

INSKEEP: The company is now making face shields and plexiglass dividers and inventions like the table.

HARMON: We don't want to go too fast and go backwards. Any way you look at it, that's foolish and more expensive than taking your time and doing it one time.

INSKEEP: And Shawn Harmon says, for now, the restaurant is doing more work for less money.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIROCRATIC'S "SLEEPYFACE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.