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Palmetto Priority program has drawn 2,500 participants

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About 2,500 restaurants across South Carolina have committed to social distancing and hygienic measures under the state’s Palmetto Priority initiative, an attempt to quell COVID-19 infection and reassure employees and customers that they are playing it safe.

Five hundred of the 2,500 pledges are being processed and added to the initiative’s website daily, according to a news release.

“Restaurateurs are tangibly demonstrating their strong commitment to providing a safe, healthy and enjoyable dining experience by participating in Palmetto Priority,” John Durst, president and CEO of the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, said in the release. “This initiative is proving to be a significant factor in our industry’s resilience during these extremely challenging times.”

Gov. Henry McMaster launched the pledge on July 1 following a 34% drop in hospitality industry jobs – representative of 10% of South Carolina’s total employment – reported in June, according to the release. Participant restaurants take a pledge to enact a list of social distancing measures and, in return, earn a spot on a geo-filtered list on the Palmetto Priority website and a seal for storefront windows.

Customers can provide feedback via a form on the website. The S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association will then follow up with both the commenter and restaurant on the issue.

According to the release, as of July 24, SCRLA had received 149 submissions from 44 cities and towns across the state. Most comments were positive, with 81% praising restaurants for participating in the initiative or their sanitization efforts. Concerns centered around lack of masks, improper usage of personal protective equipment, or not following social distancing protocols.

“The program’s success highlights the industry’s commitment to hospitality and service,” Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, said in the release. “Quality dining is at the center of the vacation experience, and our industry is making sure they meet expectations for safety, too.”

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