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Masking up for Culinary Tours!

a person standing in a kitchen preparing food

Like many Charlestonians that have been here since college days, I’ve got a bevy of friends that work in Charleston’s substantial service industry. I can count rickshaw riders, hotel employees, tour guides, museum docents and more among my longtime buddies in town – but many of my very closest and oldest friends are in the restaurant industry. They’re bartenders and servers, FOH managers and brewery employees, cooks and sommeliers, and they’ve all had a tough year that seems to be getting even tougher – or tough in different ways –  as COVID continues its march through the state. Going back to work means making a hard decision between earning money and returning to a job that they enjoy, but also potentially exposing themselves to a virus that we’re still only beginning to understand.

 While many dining establishments have been requiring masks for employees, guests have been exempt until yesterday, leaving our food & bev workers exposed, not just to COVID, but to the rudeness of guests who feel no qualms about dumping their mask frustrations onto innocent folks just trying to make them a cocktail or serve them a nice dinner. “A lot of feedback was – ‘you guys look really off-putting’”, texted a bartender friend after her first shift back at a popular Market-area restaurant during our initial reopening in May; a remarkably unkind sentiment to direct at someone who’s wearing a mask for the guest’s safety, not their own.

Thankfully, per Charleston’s city mask ordinance effective yesterday (July 1st), everyone entering a dining establishment is now required to wear a mask, unless actively eating or drinking. So what does that mean if you happen to be taking, say, our fantastic Downtown Charleston Culinary Tour (or any tour in Charleston)?

It means you’ll want to come prepared to your tour with a mask and hand sanitizer, though we’re happy to provide both if you forget! Make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth at all times – again, unless you’re actively eating and drinking. 

To better comply with COVID dining regulations, we’ve limited our group sizes to eight people. As a culinary tour guest, you’ll be sitting at a table with the rest of your small group, which means your server will be taking drink orders at the table. If you decide to approach a bar, please maintain a safe distance from the bartender. This means no leaning over the bar to chat with that charming barkeep. Think of it as adhering to the good table manners your mom insisted on when you were a kid – no elbows on the bar! 

When interacting with restaurant staff or your guide in any way, your mask should be on. When walking from one location to another, your mask should be on. Your guide will be masked at all times, unless they are eating or drinking. When you are eating or drinking, experts recommend that your mask be folded on the table next to you or placed in a clean sandwich baggie, rather than being stuffed in a pocket or purse. 

Lastly, be kind! It’s thanks to these restaurant employees that we’re able to continue to offer our tours. Gratuities for servers are already included with your ticket price, but if you’re feeling extra grateful for the opportunity to be served some delicious Southern treats outside of your own kitchen,  a few extra dollars to the folks that make it all possible is a great way to show that gratitude. We know masks aren’t anyone’s idea of a perfect dining experience. Take it from my friends: serving in a mask is even less pleasant than being served in a mask. Showing some patience and civility towards our food & bev community, in a time that’s difficult for everyone, ensures that we’re all happy to continue to welcome you to Charleston during the complicated summer of 2020, and for years to come!

-Palmer Stowe





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