Hastings bar & grill partially reopens dining area under relaxed DHM

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Restaurants are back open in Hastings, but only part of their dining area can seat customers following the more relaxed Directed Health Measure.

Murphy's Wagon Wheel reopened its dining area Monday following lighter restrictions under the new DHM. (Source: Kelsey Dickeson, KSNB)

For the first time in about a month and a half, you could hear the usual laughter and chatter from customers inside Murphy's Wagon Wheel Monday.

The bar & grill is one of many to partially reopen since the pandemic forced their doors shut temporarily.

"Getting interaction with customers will be nice again, whether it's just a distant hello or a nice little conversation," said Jamison Murphy, owner of Murphy's Wagon Wheel. "It'll be almost back to normal."

Under the new DHM, restaurants can operate at 50 percent occupancy.

Up to six people can sit at a table.

To allow for more social distancing between parties, Murphy's taped off every other table.

Bar seating is still off limits, so the bar stools have been roped together.

People can still order liquor, beer or wine with their meals.

Employees are wearing masks and gloves while they work. They're cleaning tables with a special disinfectant, and wiping off door handles every half hour.

Two hand sanitizing stations have been added at the front and back doors.

Murphy said they took advantage of the time they had to close the dining area, and spent about three weeks replacing the floor.

Just last week, they added specialty pizzas to the menu to add more options for carry out and delivery.

Murphy said they rely heavily on dine-in customers. Only being allowed to do carry out and delivery has taken a toll on the business financially.

"When you're so use to doing something 90 percent of the time and then it's cut, and you have to go to your ten percent, it's really just difficult to transition and try to make that your number one business priority," Murphy said.

Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department, said they've been seeing some positive trends these past few weeks.

She said the health department is ready to test this portion of the pandemic response.

"If we do well, and people are continuing the social distancing and the prevention pieces even as we open up, then we shouldn't expect to see very many more cases," Bever said. "And hopefully not a spike, or we may have to pull back a little bit."

Bever said local health departments are working with DHHS and the governor's office to get consistent guidance on how to handle summer events.

She said they hope to get more information by the end of this week, or early next week.

These new restrictions will last at least two weeks.

Murphy's Wagon Wheel will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday - Saturday. Those hours may change depending on how things go during this time period.

Carry out and delivery are still available.

Murphy said although it'll be challenging to bounce back, all they can do is move forward.

"We've been here since '71, and hopefully we can continue that," Murphy said.