CONNECTICUT — If your favorite Connecticut hotel seems a little less accommodating on your next overnight stay, blame the coronavirus, and the state regulations that are being enforced in its wake.
On June 17, hotels, motels and B&Bs will be joining gyms, indoor recreation and personal services such as tattoo parlors among the business sectors allowed to come back online in Connecticut. Gov. Ned Lamont shuttered them all as part of his “Stay Safe, Stay Home” lockdown begun in March, intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Or almost all. The Ethan Allen on Lake Avenue Extension in Danbury was able to keep its doors open catering to essential workers.
“We mostly did essential workers from Danbury Hospital such as doctors and nurses who lived further away, maybe more than an hour, and they were working 12-hour shifts,” said Kimberly Olson, director of sales and marketing at Ethan Allen. “Or people who were trying to keep from spreading COVID to their families.”
The rules and regulations have been fluid since the lockdown began, but have been codified as part of Lamont’s “Reopen Connecticut” program. The guidelines lay out in great detail what the businesses need to do if they want to reopen on June 17.
Beyond the obvious changes that we all have come to expect, such as capacity restrictions, mandatory face masks and ubiquitous hand sanitizer, the newly reopened lodging industry will be sporting a number of new looks. Many won’t be very flattering.
In fact, your hotel experience is likely to be a bit more bare bones than you remember. Hotels have been instructed to “remove amenities non-essential to businesses’ main function.” So say goodbye to mini-bars and ice machines, not to mention those pots of free water and coffee sitting around in the common spaces.
“We don’t have any coffee available at all because we’re not allowed to have it out,” Olson confirmed. “We’re also not allowed to have the Keurigs in the rooms anymore. We’ve taken away all of the magazines, the microwaves… anything that can be touched by someone else has to be removed.”
If you are waiting on the bellhop to drop off your bags, you’ll wait a little longer. Hotel employees in Connecticut are now prohibited from entering your room while you are in it. That’s going to make it a bit harder to tip them (but make a point to do it anyway, workers who rely on tips have been hammered hard in the pandemic).
Checking in at your favorite hotel will be a whole new experience, but nothing for which three months navigating the sparse pickings of “essential” retail operations during the COVID-19 crisis hasn’t prepared you. Lobbies that can’t easily support social distancing between clerks and customers will still be “contact-less,” with those familiar plastic screens in place to help prevent the spread of infection. Check-ins on your mobile device will be encouraged, and nobody will hand you a paper receipt when you leave: It’ll all be digital.
Can you social distance in an elevator? In most of them, technically no. (If you’re like us you take a deep breath when you enter an elevator and don’t exhale until you’ve reached your floor anyway, so you’re already ahead of the game.) But you are likely to see markers stenciled out on the lift’s floor to inform you on where to stand, and to be aware of risky overcrowding.
“The actual way you’re supposed to do it, is you’re supposed to be on all four corners facing the wall,” Olson said. “Can we enforce it? No, but we do instruct how you should be doing it.”
Olson reckons that the only time lately an elevator has more than one rider is when they’re all from the same family. Since the hotel is only using the first and second floors currently, most times, guests are taking the stairs.
One thing’s for sure: ignorance of the rules and regulations will not serve as an excuse for violating them. The state is looking for hotels to place signage everywhere, including across the video screens many now favored in lobbies and rooms for promotional purposes. And if you find yourself staying in a hotel that’s not up to the new code, the state is encouraging you to snitch by calling 211.
As for hotel pools and gyms, they must follow the same new regulations their non-lodging industry counterparts must now follow, and they’re extensive, including cleaning all the weight room gear after each use.
Dining areas in hotels, like dining rooms everywhere else in the state, will be rearranged to accommodate more space between tables, and so fifty percent fewer diners at any one time.
If you prefer to dine in your room (And why wouldn’t you? You’re staying in a hotel!), traditional room service will still be offered, just executed in a non-traditional way. Deliveries will be bagged and left at the door to your room. You can forget about fine china — or any kind of china, really. The state is recommending room service play out across disposable dishes and cutlery only. On the upside, the servers are now required to clean their carts before and after every use.
In all likelihood, hotels will have a little bit of a “slow season” to work out all their post-pandemic kinks, as no one is expecting a sudden spike in reservations come the tail end of June. The bigger worry is about guests coming back at all. As many businesses are still reeling from revenue lost during virus crisis, it is reasonable to expect that much business travel will be curtailed. As for personal travel, those in high-risk groups and over the age of 65 are still being encouraged not to travel and stay safely at home.
Olson has a hunch that the Ethan Allen in Danbury will start seeing some of its business travel traffic back after Labor Day, but says she cannot predict how quickly the state will ease regulations, and to what degree.
“We can book something now at 25 percent of a room’s capacity, because we know that will be okay,” she said, “but after that we are just guessing.”
You can read all the requirements a hotel must meet before reopening online here.
This article originally appeared on the Across Connecticut Patch