Eau Claire eats

Businesses and students of Eau Claire voice opinions on dining in or dining out

Local business operations

Many coffee shops and restaurants needed to make a choice as to whether they could keep their businesses operating during the pandemic or if closing down would be what is best.

EC-DC, a local downtown coffee shop, is one place that originally decided to shut down but reopened later with a dine-out option only.

Ryley Glasgow, lead barista at EC-DC, said he believes closing down was the right option and keeping their shop as a dine-out option made him as a worker feel the safest when returning to work.

“We shut down in March when pretty much everyone else shut down for the pandemic and then we reopened a couple of months later with no seating,” Glasgow said. “We knew it was a pandemic, it’s not safe to have people in an enclosed space without masks on.”

Glasgow said he thinks opening and having a dine-in option is possible, it just isn’t the right decision for EC-DC based on space. 

With the shop’s usual traffic of customers and their need to walk past one another to order coffee or put away used dishes, the business decided it wasn’t a good idea to allow dine-in options at this time. 

“I would definitely say I feel much safer having it like this,” Glasgow said. 

Although customers aren’t allowed to dine-in, Glasgow said EC-DC is working hard to maintain public safety by providing free masks, putting social distancing markers for both customers and employees, sanitizing all areas frequently and applying barriers at the registers.

A few blocks down from EC-DC is another popular coffee shop, the Acoustic Café, where the business has made the opposite choice and remains open for dine-in. 

Morgan Hines-Munson, the manager of Acoustic, said she believes it was okay to remain open for dine-in as long as the business worked hard to create a safe environment and employees enforced the pandemic policies. 

“We got a bunch of our tables pulled up to maintain social distance and we are really enforcing the mask policy,” Hines-Munson said. “We offer free masks to customers or anyone who comes in.” 

Hines-Munson said the business is doing everything they can to ensure the safety of their customers. On top of that, Acoustic is doing everything they can to keep their employees working and making sure they are getting hours during the pandemic. 

“Really, for me as the manager my focus is still on health,” Hines-Munson said. “I obviously want to continue having good business, but I think it is most important that we tackle this safely,  instead of pretending and bringing in more sales.”

Like EC-DC, Acoustic has put into place social distancing, mask requirements, sanitation and barriers between customers and employees. 

UW-Eau Claire dining operations 

On-campus, there is the option to get both coffee or food from the Davies Student Center on lower campus. In the past, students were able to dine-in at all locations including Einstein’s Bagels in Centennial Hall, The Cabin located in Davies, or the large Davies food court.

However, like local businesses, public seating has been eliminated in small spaces and the number of seating available in larger areas have been decreased to meet public safety standards. 

Both The Cabin and Einstein’s Bagels are no longer allowing students to dine-in and Davies has removed numerous tables in common areas to keep students distanced from one another.

Students voice their opinions

When dine-in is not an option at Davies, Abby Smith, a second-year psychology student, said she tries to find a place to eat locally that provides dine-in options as well. 

“I usually dine-in if they have the option and I try to do it when it’s not so busy,” Smith said. 

Her reasoning behind only going when it’s not so busy is because she still knows the pandemic is happening and that there will be people within the community who aren’t taking public safety restrictions seriously. 

Another student, Alex Hammes, a fourth-year computer science student, also said he likes to dine-in when having the option. 

Although Hammes said he admits he likes to dine-in at restaurants, it still makes him nervous with the pandemic going on. 

“I don’t want to get my family members sick,” Hammes said. “But I still want to go out and have a life and I go when I know I’m not going home for a while.”

Some students on campus feel the opposite about the situation and prefer to dine-out. 

Anna Kuhn, a third-year education student, said she thinks it is better to dine-out than in. 

“I am only dining out right now,” Kuhn said. “I don’t feel comfortable being inside of a place where people aren’t wearing masks.”

When asking 10 students for their opinions on dine-in or dine-out, seven out of the 10 selected dine-out due to feeling unsafe in public, not wanting to get themselves or others sick, or just not having the funds to eat anything else but meal plan options. 

Huettner can be contacted at [email protected]