Weird Things You Can’t Do in a Post-COVID World

The reopening of the economy is changing how many Americans experience the hallmarks of summer, such as beaches, camps, and amusement parks. Some are still shut while others open on a limited basis. In trying to reopen safely, states have imposed a hodgepodge of regulations on dining, entertainment and other leisure activities. There will be unassuming casualties–buffets, ketchup bottles, and poker, to name a few–whose absence marks our entry into a changed world. Here are just a few of them.

Relics of the Past

Restaurants are already looking different: once-bustling diners will have to observe social distancing guidelines by physically separating tables, limiting the number of guests, or erecting plexiglass barriers between booths. In Nebraska, Vermont, and Virginia, self-serve buffets are a thing of the past. (Maybe you can ask for seconds.) Laminated menus, once passed between throngs of hungry guests each day, will also disappear from Vermont’s restaurants–the state will allow only disposable or electronic menus. Condiments like salt and pepper shakers are being removed from South Carolina’s restaurant tables and only provided upon request. Similarly, in Washington, condiment bottles will have to be replaced by single-use sachets or sanitized manually after each use. Maybe you should just bring your own salt and pepper shakers.

Doctors’ offices and waiting rooms will also be different: offices in Washington and Oregon will have to remove those year-old fashion and lifestyle magazines from their racks. Dishes with mints or candy at receptionist desks will also disappear, (as if that was ever a good idea) alongside communal water or coffee stations. There is divine intervention, too: anything that is passed among worshippers during a religious service is also banned in states like Nebraska and New Hampshire.

Each of these now-outdated practices is being succeeded by new markers of a post-pandemic world–perhaps most visible among these are plexiglass barriers and an abundance of sneeze guards that are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. 


As states begin reopening, the fun police are out in force. In Louisiana, of all places, bands can play music outdoors while people eat, but “only with no dancing or standing.” In Vermont, live entertainment, including music, isn’t allowed either, to prevent people from gathering–in New Mexico, this also includes cooking demonstrations. And unless worshippers or choirs in Washington can sing with their masks on, Sunday church services will also be less vibrant. Ditto for karaoke bars in Wyoming. Maybe you can just hum.

Farmers’ markets in Vermont will also be barred from playing music. Sampling food, a fond pastime for many, is also banned specifically at farmers’ markets in New Mexico, and in general across Virginia and Vermont.

Vices, coronavirus-era-regulation edition 

New York’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio wants you to figure out how to have safe sex during the coronavirus (one since-deleted memo suggested it might involve plexiglass). In Ohio, casinos are reopened, but you can’t have a valet, coat check, or play poker. While many cannabis businesses were deemed essential under initial stay-at-home-orders, in Nevada, their reopening plan has to be filed with the Marijuana Enforcement Division for approval. 

From the closing of bars to the death of nightlife–you can’t sit at the bar anymore in Tennessee–the pandemic has been tough on vices and the businesses that provide them. In Nebraska, guidelines issued April 24 by Governor Ricketts announced that dine-in restaurants could open on May 4 but “bars, gentlemen’s clubs, bottle clubs, indoor movie theaters, indoor theaters/playhouses,” would stay shut until May 31. In a similar vein, strip clubs and cannabis establishments were locked out of PPP Loans, and from a grant program in Oakland, California. Las Vegas casinos are now open, but a limited basis.

Meanwhile, sex toy sales have surged and platforms like OnlyFans have taken on a new importance in the cultural conversation, as we turn our “vices–like everything else–into online experiences. But, regulatory backlash and rejection from aid programs spell trouble for those businesses that help people engage in adult entertainment, drink alcohol, or consume cannabis. You might also have trouble restarting your dart league in Wyoming

Teeing Up Luxury Regulations

While the pandemic has increased the demand for certain high-end items, like travel on private planes, other luxuries are more tightly regulated. Washington State has released multiple guidelines for golf course reopening. In a clarification to its Phase 1 regs, people from the same household can share a cart. In New Mexico, “Tee times must be pre-scheduled,” and caddies are no longer allowed. You’ll have to select your own club. Nor can you have a meal during your round of golf. So, you have to bring your own snacks and haul your own golf clubs. You also can’t get a facial in Rhode Island in phase II of reopening even if you can get a haircut. Saunas are variously regulated:  banned in Washington’s phase II, Ohio, and Rhode Island but allowed–with social distancing–in Tennessee. Some states, it seems, don’t like it hot.  

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