CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire restaurants were allowed to begin serving customers for outdoor dining on Monday, and Jim Tanner and Steve Duprey may have been the first to take advantage of it.

They were sitting outside The Works Café in Concord with their coffee by 6:02 a.m., two minutes after it opened.

For several years, they’ve been among a group of friends who meet at the café every weekday morning. Since the governor issued the stay-at-home order, Tanner and Duprey have altered the tradition — getting coffee to go and chatting outside for a few minutes, standing 10 feet apart.

“Today was nice because we saw the tables out and thought, `Hey, we can sit here and enjoy the nice weather,'” said Tanner, a retired IBM sales executive who has missed the morning gatherings.

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A masked server delivers lunch to a table at the Nuevo Vallarta Mexican Restaurant in Manchester, N.H., on Monday. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

“Folks kind of paraded in … it was a very nice way for many of us to start our day and get a lot of social contact with all facets of society,” he said.

Restaurants, which previously had been restricted to take-out and delivery, can now serve diners outside, with tables six feet apart. Staff who work directly with customers must wear masks, and customers are asked to wear them as well as they enter and exit the property, and if they go inside to use restrooms.

Sean Brown, chief operating officer for the Common Man family of restaurants, said many customers arrived for lunch without masks Monday, but the restaurants provided them. Most locations were moderately busy despite less-than-ideal weather, he said.

“We certainly were not overwhelmed, but the guests that were dining with us were appreciative, they were happy to see us and we were happy to see them,” he said. “I’m confident that the outdoor dining business will continue to grow as guests become more comfortable.”

Brown said staff were happy to get back to work.

“Everyone had a smile on their face today,” he said. “I’ve been telling everyone, even if you have a mask on, our customers can still see a big smile.”

As of Sunday, 3,596 people in New Hampshire had tested positive for the virus, an increase of 41 from the previous day. The state announced one new death, bringing the total to 172.


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