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Socially distanced outdoor entertaining
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    Post #1 - July 13th, 2020, 11:06 am
    Post #1 - July 13th, 2020, 11:06 am Post #1 - July 13th, 2020, 11:06 am
    I feel as if we're all figuring things on a day-by-day basis. This weekend, in celebration of a milestone birthday, we had one of SPACE's concerts to go in our backyard.

    The concert-to-go is a great way to support local artists and venues during the pandemic, and includes a 45-minute concert in your back or front yard for up to 10 people, plus pizza and booze. We've had outdoor dinners with two guests, but this was our largest group during the pandemic. I thought I'd share some of the things we did to ensure that everyone had a safe and comfortable experience.

    * Because almost all of our guests were couples, we set up pairs of chairs 6' apart. Each pair of chairs had a small side table, coasters, insulated wine glasses and an ice bucket (we used galvantized metal buckets from Mendard's) with a bottle of white, a bottle of rose and two bottles of water.

    * I put paper plates, napkins and cutlery into gallon ziplock bags, so rather than having people touch piles of plates, etc., they just needed to grab a ziplock bag that had everything they needed. Since there's still questions about how long coronavirus lives on surfaces, we did this several days in advance in advance.

    * We had two coolers, one just with booze, the other just with non-alcoholic drinks, and labeled them accordingly to minimize the need to open multiple coolers to find a preferred drink.

    * Hand sanitizer was in several spots around the backyard.

    * Food was spread between 3 tables to minimize congregating, and drink coolers were also spread out.

    * We attempted to minimize the need for shared serving utensils. For example, we pre-filled cups with potato chips so people just needed to grab one, and all of the appetizers were either prepared on toothpicks/skewers (think satays, etc.) or were items that could be picked up without touching other items (mini quiche). SPACE provides pizza from Union Squared, so that could be picked up without utensils. We asked the bakery (Sweet Temptations to package each cupcake in a separate container so people could easily grab one.

    * We asked people to wear a mask if they weren't eating, drinking or sitting in their seats, and if they went into the house to use the bathroom.

    * Our powder room now has a touchless soap dispenser. We got rid of cloth hand towels and replaced them with the decorative disposable towels. There was also hand sanitizer and wipes in the bathroom.

    Some notes:
    Because we we wanted to enjoy the party, the menu was our biggest challenge. We wanted items that didn't need to be kept very hot or very cold, and things that didn't require a lot of touching of communal serving utensils. We love to cook and often throw big dinner parties, but for this we decided to embrace a nostalgia theme -- since it was my 50th birthday, we went with some childhood favorites and had pizza and Popeye's fried chicken. We also had little goodie bags for guests filled with candy popular in the 1970s (Fun Dip, Pop Rocks, Ring Pops) and individual boxes of Cracker Jack's.

    I do hate how much disposable paper/plastic products we used, but when I was reading best practices for hosting socially distanced gatherings, many recommend that guests bring their own plates, glasses and utensils. I was not about to ask my guests to do that, so we opted for the disposable route. Only the insulated wine glasses (it was 85+ degrees) were reusable. That said, when we've just hosted another couple for a backyard dinner, we're using real plates, utensils, cloth napkins, etc.

    We wanted to be respectful of our neighbors, and didn't want to give anyone reason to call the police if they felt our gathering was too large (Phase 4 allows gatherings of up to 50 people, we had 10 + 1 performer and his two assistants) or social distancing protocols weren't being enforced. For that reason, we let our guests know that we'd be calling it a night at 9 pm.

    Worth noting my husband is COVID tested almost weekly, and we've both had negative antibody tests. We work from home and while we have dined on restaurant patios, we will not dine inside or use restaurant bathrooms (though that may change when we celebrate my birthday at Next this week). We've had limited contact with others for several weeks, so we had a high degree of confidence we were safe. We also told guests that we would not be upset if they needed to cancel at the last minute because of health issues.

    While I don't know that we'll do a 10-person gathering again any time soon, I think we'll be more comfortable having a small gathering with 6 people, for example, and we'll probably use many of the same protocols, particularly the pairs of chairs, table and personal ice bucket appaoch.

    I'd love to hear other suggestions for things people have done that worked particularly well.
  • Post #2 - July 13th, 2020, 11:54 am
    Post #2 - July 13th, 2020, 11:54 am Post #2 - July 13th, 2020, 11:54 am
    chgoeditor wrote:I'd love to hear other suggestions for things people have done that worked particularly well.

    We've had a few socially distanced get-togethers at our place. We typically set up groupings of chairs and small tables, to match up with who's coming, at 8-10' intervals around our deck. Vistors can (and must) access the deck without entering the house. We haven't served food and the rest is strictly byo. Our guests can leave their trash and recyclables. We take care of those items, being sure to glove up and wash down before and after handling them.

    We have a bathroom that's directly accessible from the deck that is for our guests. Before they come over, we close off the door inside the house that leads to that bathroom and leave it closed until the next morning, when we feel it's safe to open it. It's stocked with liquid soap, disposable towels and hand sanitizer. We ask that anyone using the bathroom wear a mask when they use it.

    So far, it's worked out pretty well. The smaller the group, the more comfortable I am with it. I can't say I've ever been 100% relaxed during any of these get-togethers but they're pleasant enough. And on balance, it's better than not getting together in person at all. For now, it'll have to do.

    Btw, I love what Space is doing. When I first saw it in their emails, I thought it was a great idea (and I'm a long-time fan of Jason Narducy, too). Glad to hear that the experiences are fun, and that they're executing the program well.

    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #3 - July 13th, 2020, 1:51 pm
    Post #3 - July 13th, 2020, 1:51 pm Post #3 - July 13th, 2020, 1:51 pm
    Thanks for sharing what you're doing, Ronnie! I wish we had the convenience of a bathroom set up like yours.

    For those of us who love to entertain, this is all tough because so much of it is contrary to what we think it means to be a "good host." But these days the #1 rule of being a good host is, "Don't get your guests sick," and that's what we're all striving for.

    One thing I didn't mention -- while we do have two large coolers, we're planning to get a fridge for our garage. It will definitely come in handy when entertaining (particularly at times when we don't want to go buy ice for the cooler) and we're sure we'll use the extra freezer space to reduce trips to the store.

    I'd highly recommend SPACE's concerts to go for those who are interested. It's a great way to support local artists. While it's not cheap, we've had 13 concerts canceled or postponed since March 15, so we're theoretically under on our music budget for the year. (Granted, I don't think we've asked for any refunds, but we still would have spent as much as we paid SPACE on cabs, pre-show dinners and drinks.)