Although bars and nightclubs are still going to be closed for the next little while, it’s never too early for bar owners and operators to start thinking about what their post-pandemic reopening plans will look like. Most public spaces are going to be required to have public health and safety plans in place before they’re allowed to reopen to the public, and many health authorities have identified that the floor is a huge vector for transmission of virus particles. A comprehensive pandemic public health and safety plan will require attention to the obvious contamination vectors like countertops, bar tops, tabletops, and other frequently-touched surfaces, but also attention to your floors.
The floor of your bar or restaurant is easily the single largest reservoir of pathogenic microorganisms in your entire building. The floor is a superhighway for these harmful virus particles and bacteria that are transported around your entire facility on the soles of shoes, wheels and carts. Every time a patron sets down a purse or drops a pen or their phone on the floor, these “secondary vehicles” help bring microorganisms to surfaces that are readily accessible to hands. This is also known as “incidental floor contact”, and according to the International Sanitary Supply Association, the average person has more than 50 of these floor contacts in a single day.
The good news is that you can shut down this virus superhighway without too much trouble! Here’s seven simple ways that bar owners can make their buildings much safer when it comes to viruses and bacteria:
1. Post signage. Post more signage. Go crazy with signage.
Although it might sound like common sense, it’s shockingly easy for people to fall back into their old patterns and let the fundamentals of cleanliness and sanitation go by the wayside. One of the simplest and easiest things a bar operator can do is put up signs throughout the FOH and BOH areas to encourage frequent handwashing. Make sure your signs demonstrate the proper method and 20-second duration required kill the coronavirus. Be creative with your signage! Funny or amusing signs get noticed; ugly or nagging signs get ignored. Some creative bar owners are even coming up with ways to integrate advertising ideas along with their handwashing reminders! A fun way to encourage a sufficient amount of handwashing time is to instruct patrons to wash their hands while singing a particular song’s chorus that’s about 20 seconds long. One bar is planning on changing their handwashing signs to mention a different song for this purpose every week, and is offering a special happy hour discount to patrons that can tell the bartender what that song is!
2. Create a new sanitizing regime, and make sure staff stick to it.
Regularly cleaning and sanitizing countertops, table tops and other hard surfaces, PIN pads, and other regular touchpoints is essential in keeping your bar from potentially becoming a new COVID-19 infection hotspot. It’s vitally important to create a formal, written rota that clearly spells out exactly what is required of staff to keep these touchpoints clean, sanitized, and safe. It’s important to educate your staff on what steps are required in order to actually sanitize these surfaces – different sanitizing agents require different dwell times to fully kill bacteria and viruses on these surfaces, so it’s extremely important that all staff are fully trained on these details. A sloppy job done in this area is actually worse than no job at all, because a cloth improperly used in one infected area can then spread that infection around to fresh areas inadvertently.
3. Equip your staff with the right PPE.
Exactly what personal protective equipment may be needed in a bar environment still isn’t clear, but it’s important that bar owners start thinking about what modifications they may need to make to their bars in order to protect both their staff and their patrons. Some bars are considering installing Plexiglas barriers along their bars, some are planning on distributing gloves and face masks to their staff members, and some are considering switching to accepting only credit and debit cards for payment to avoid contact with cash. Every bar will have different need and different abilities to meet the needs of social distancing and reducing transmission vectors, so it’s important for bar owners to keep an open mind when tackling these challenges.
4. Enforce social distancing.
This is an exceptionally difficult ask for bars and pubs. In a literal sense, enforcing social distancing requirements will reduce a bar’s maximum occupancy – not to mention the impact on a bar’s atmosphere. It will be wise (if not outright required) for bars to try to ensure their patrons keep at least a 6-foot distance between social groups and minimize cross-contamination between them. That will mean physically spacing out your pub tables and measuring the distance between chairs along your bar as they’d be positioned with people sitting in them. Marking these new table positions on the floor with masking tape is a good way to prevent ‘table drift’ as people use the space and potentially move the tables and chairs too close together.
5. Think outside the box.
Some retailers are using some very creative thinking to solve this public health and safety problem. One private liquor store retailer in Vancouver is using infrared security cameras to scan the body temperature of customers as they enter the store, and if their body temperature indicates a potential fever an alarm sounds! While this might not be every business owner’s cup of tea, it’s definitely an example of thinking outside the box to solve a unique problem like COVID-19! Some restaurants are proposing that silverware won’t be left on tables between guests but only brought out with the meal; some are planning to only accept credit or debit cards and not cash to limit the customer-to-staff contact points; and some are even planning on providing their wait staff with full PPE (like gloves and clear face shields) when they’re on shift.
6. Use an approved sanitizing agent.
Although sanitizer is in short supply right now, if you’re trying to kill coronavirus then it’s important to make sure you’re using a sanitizing agent that is both foodsafe and has been confirmed to actually kill coronavirus. The Government of Canada has published a list of approved sanitizing agents to kill COVID-19, and they are updating it regularly. You can see the list on their website by clicking here.
7. Don’t forget about the biggest touchpoint of all: your floor!
When people are thinking about surfaces in their restaurants that need to be disinfected, they think about touchpoints that come into contact with their hands…but most people forget about what they touch with their feet! Your restaurant’s floor is the biggest touchpoint of all – literally every person that comes into your restaurant touches your floor, and they touch your floor with shoes that have touched the floor and ground of every place they’ve been since the pandemic began. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently conducted a study in March 2020 on the transmission vectors of COVID-19 in hospital wards in Wuhan, China. The study found that the coronavirus was widely distributed on floors throughout the hospital, even in areas that did not have direct contact with infected patients. Gravity and air flow cause most virus droplets to float to the ground, where they can be picked up by shoes and carried to new areas. The CDC study shows that 50% of the shoe bottoms of ICU medical staff tested positive for coronavirus, and theorizes that contaminated shoes spread the virus to areas that had no direct contact with COVID-19 patients. The study authors highly recommended that persons disinfect shoe soles before walking out of wards containing COVID-19 patients.
Sanitizing shoe soles doesn’t need to be difficult or time-consuming; with a Grizzly Sanitize sanitizing mat system, it’s remarkably simple, inexpensive, and is a great way to make your customers feel secure and comfortable in the measures you’re taking to make their safety a priority.