Changing practices on the boardwalk

Leslie Silverman

A decision to block off part of the Keystone boardwalk by one owner has been met with some controversy.

Surrounding boardwalk businesses think Red Garter Saloon/Ruby House’s decision to block off part of the Keystone boardwalk to foot traffic hinders the flow of foot traffic.

But owner Lisa Schaeffer sees things differently.

“We need to keep our patrons safe,” Schaeffer said. “We need to keep our employees safe. Everybody is doing 50 percent of their business. How can you survive on 50 percent?”

 Schaeffer has chosen to offer outside seating on the part of the boardwalk just outside the three establishments she owns.

In doing so, foot traffic is redirected from the boardwalk to the sidewalk.

The boardwalk is private property, owned by Schaeffer.

“I can do what I want,” she said. “It goes public on the sidewalk. No business can stay alive at 50 percent seating. Even with those outside tables I’m still at 50 percent. If I had to take out those outside tables and let this be a walkway, because you can’t social distance if this is a walkway then all those seats would have to go. Why would I even bother opening?”

Schaeffer had to take half of the tables out on her upper deck to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

The closure of the boardwalk for additional outside seating also impacts the foot traffic to the leather store she owns.

Outside seating is not the only change Schaeffer has made to keep her employees and customers safe.

“I’ve got sneeze guards everywhere,” she said. “I bought a medical grade air purifier. I upgraded the HEPA filters in my HVAC system. It took me four grand to open this way.”

Many other businesses around town have put in extra safety measures, although to date, no other business has utilized the boardwalk space in this manner.

Business owner Tim Johnson has implemented numerous changes on his properties including offering guests hand sanitizer, requiring staff to wear masks, utilizing barriers at front desk check-ins and offering a “grab and go” breakfast versus a buffet.

“Obviously servers are going to be the most exposed and need to be the most cognizant of their surroundings and safety,” Johnson said.

Schaeffer intends to comply with CDC guidelines for as long as they are in place.

“We have to stay alive,” she said. “The restaurant industry was the hardest hit.”

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