Indoor dining, loosening of Vt. tourism restrictions expected Friday

Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 5:19 PM EDT
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Indoor dining and the easing of some out-of-state traveler restrictions will likely be announced by Vermont Gov. Phil Scott on Friday with the next turn of the spigot.

At Forget-Me-Not Flowers and Gifts in Barre, you can find a tubby, tabby cat named Abby greeting guests. Her owner, Alexis Dexter, is close to opening up Vermont's first cat cafe next door. But like many new ventures, Kitty Korner Cafe stalled when COVID-19 hit.

"Everyone's really excited about that. Every day someone comes in and asks me, 'When is it going to open? when is it going to open?' And right now I'm going, 'As soon as it can, as soon as it can,'" Dexter said.

Their Kickstarter campaign last year raised more than $5,000 to get it off the ground. It's money that Dexter says has helped pay the rent while they wait. The only guest in the cafe now is her other cat, Maisey. "I would really like to see it open by July," Dexter said.

Some cats are already in the building,but they aren't the adoptable ones that'll be on site once they open. They're working with the Central Vermont Humane Society to have anywhere from four to 12 cats in there for people to meet and maybe even take home.

They've figured out a door system for keeping felines and food preparation separate. But they still need two things to open. One, the final health department inspections -- those are being done virtually at the moment. And two, indoor dining needs to reopen. Governor Phil Scott said he'll be announcing that Friday, with physical distancing requirements. Bars will not be included.

"We've got a very long way to go to get restaurants back on their feet, but we've got to start somewhere," Scott said.

The governor also hinted at increasing lodging capacity and lifting quarantine requirements for certain out-of-state travelers from the northeast states, and likely only certain parts of them where the virus isn't as severe. Scott says he hopes he and other governors might develop a regional travel safety approach.

Visits to nursing homes are still on hold, but the governor and health commissioner both said figuring out how to do that -- likely outdoors -- is one of their top priorities right now. "Nothing could be closer to our minds right now. And obviously, the Vermont summer is not always our longest season, so we want to do this in a timely way, but it has to be done very, very safely," said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

Still, the governor also warned Vermonters he doesn't think we will get back to normal until sometime next year, and some businesses won't make it. "I don't think we can open up the spigot all the way, and there may not be as much water coming out as was happening earlier, in normal times," Scott said.