Czech restaurant in Washington reopens after two months of lockdown

Photo: Jan Kaliba, Czech Radio

US states are gradually easing restrictions imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus. As life slowly returns to normal, Czech Radio paid a visit to a Czech restaurant in Washington, which has just welcomed its first customers after two months of lockdown.

Bistro Bohém, photo: Jan Kaliba, Czech Radio
Bistro Bohém, photo: Jan Kaliba, Czech Radio

Washington D.C. was one of the US cities hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Although the city has fewer inhabitants than Prague, the number of people who died due to Covid-19 is higher than in the whole of the Czech Republic.

Now, after more than two months of lockdown, restaurants in the US capital have finally been allowed to reopen for outdoor seating. Czech Radio’s reporter Jan Kaliba paid a visit to Bistro Bohém, the only restaurant in the capital serving Czech food and beer, and spoke to its owner, Daniel Sidzina:

“This is the first day we are open after two months, so we are very excited, but also a little nervous. I think we are quite well prepared. It also depends on how our guests will behave, of course, but we can control that to some extent.”

Under the strict regulations introduced by the city authorities, restaurants are required to maintain a 30-day list of all customers who have been eating on their premises, including their email and telephone contact information.

Bistro Bohém provides its guests with hand disinfectant and, as a bonus it also offers a touch-free menu. All the customers have to do is scan a code on the table with their mobile phone.

Daniel Sidzina, photo: Jan Kaliba, Czech Radio

“I think the guests will gradually start to come again. I expect young people will be first to return, while the older generation, families with children, will probably prefer to order take-outs.

“The elderly are likely to wait for a vaccine before they start to come again. And pensioners are our best customers, because they want to enjoy life.”

According to the current regulations, parties in restaurants are limited to six people and tables have to be placed at least two metres apart.

Daniel Sidzina’s restaurant, which is located on the corner of Florida Avenue, can fit six tables in their outdoor space.

During the lockdown, Bistro Bohém only sold take-away food, providing it free-of-charge to healthcare workers, police officers and firemen.

Photo: Jan Kaliba, Czech Radio

During the two months, the restaurant’s sales dropped to about one tenth and the number of employees was reduced from 18 to two. Nevertheless, Daniel Sidzina tries to remain optimistic:

“The important thing is that everyone stays healthy and there is not a second wave of the coronavirus, because that would be the final blow for most restaurants, I think. I am trying to stay positive, but of course we are all very nervous about how things will turn out.”