At the Phillips 66 Quick Trip convenience store at Third and Oak streets, customer Kathy Akers wanted a fountain drink, but she wasn’t able to help herself as in the past.
Instead, Dale Haskett — who normally works at another location — now also spends time at the Third Street site to serve customers, such as Akers.
“Do you want it to the brim?” he asked her. “Do you need anything else?”
Akers later said it didn’t bother her if she couldn’t get her own. “I don’t care if someone wants to wait on me,” she said.
Under a new state order and local health department requirement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, customers cannot, at this time, help themselves to a fountain drink or coffee at a beverage station.
Either the drink station must be roped off/turned off, or someone from the convenience store must serve the beverages or self-serve hot food items such as pizza or hot dogs.
The rules stem from the governor’s order as part of the Back On Track plan to gradually re-open the Indiana.
In Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-26, signed May 1 — which includes Phase 2 — under a section for restaurants, it states, “Self-service stations (salad bars, beverage stations, etc.) are not permitted.”
According to Roni Elder, spokesperson with the Vigo County Health Department, the order “says no self serve and that includes beverage stations. Convenience stores all hold a food permit through the health department, so they are considered a food establishment through us. They have food they serve to the public so we inspect them just like restaurants.”
The self-serve soda fountain stations don’t have to close down completely, but the employee has to serve it, she said.
Also, condiments can’t be left out for the public; again, an employee must provide it.
The goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “We don’t want people congregating in one area,” Elder said. It also prevents multiple people from touching those items.
“It is in the governor’s orders and the health department has mandated it,” she said. Restaurants are being compliant, and convenience stores have been contacted.
Health department staff have also visited some of the convenience stores “to make sure they understand what is required.”
The new mandate “will be enforced,” Elder said.
Back at the Phillips 66, Haskett wore a mask and put on a fresh set of gloves as he served the drink to Akers. He also serves coffee and cappuccino. There is a lot of demand for those items.
Some convenience stores are closing their fountain/self serve areas, “but we’ve decided to stay open,” he said.
He believes the new requirement for self-serve soda fountains “was a bit delayed,” and it would have been helpful for public health/safety reasons to implement it sooner.
Haskett believes it’s a good idea overall.
Customers “for the most part are understanding,” he said. With something new, “There comes a level of adaptability.”
The Maui Stop and Shop, at Seventh and Springhill, has closed its self-serve soda fountain, coffee, slushies and popcorn, said Bahadur Singh, who is part owner. A yellow tape closes off the area, and a sign explains why.
He’s heard several complaints from customers, who ask why “and we let them read the sign. These are orders from the health department,” he said.
Singh understands the intent is to protect the public from COVID-19 by not letting multiple people touch the same equipment.
But he also points to a cooler with multiple doors filled with items people can continue to buy, and those customers touch the same door handles. When customers enter the store, they all open the door using the same handle.
Singh said the Maui Stop and Shop has decided to close off the self serve area rather than try to staff it.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at email@example.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.