SALT LAKE CITY — An ordering table blocks the door at Alchemy Coffee in Salt Lake City so customers pay then wait for their lattes and muffins outside in small, spaced-apart groups on the sun-dappled asphalt of the parking lot.

For local coffee shops, the days of crowds congregating around tables or settling into comfy chairs like those scattered around the dining area at Salt Lake Roasting Co., have been gone for weeks now. In “yellow,” no one’s lingering over a beverage while leisurely surfing the web or having lazy, lengthy conversations with pals into the night.

For the most part, local coffee shops have not been serving customers during evening hours since the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus stopped the nation’s nightlife.

COVID-19 has temporarily closed some local coffee shops and shortened the hours at nearly all the rest of them, while reducing the coffee klatch to grab and go, though some folks linger on bikes in parking lots or turn the hoods of their cars into makeshift tables.

When Salt Lake’s viral status turns “yellow,” the consensus is not much will change at the smaller coffee shops, which don’t have a lot of room to put distance between tables and will continue to limit service to takeout orders. Bigger ones will see their normal capacity reduced.

John Kennamer, a regular at Alchemy Coffee, stands back as he talks with barista Shalyn Karician outside the shop at 390 E. 1700 South in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News

“Into yellow, we’re not opening dine-in at all; we don’t have capacity to keep people spaced out enough,” said longtime Alchemy employee Shalyn Karician. The shop is exploring setting up some tables on a small patio area, but it’s unlikely to provide many seats, she said.

Still, Karician predicts Alchemy will weather the pandemic, thanks to robust neighborhood help. She said support of local businesses, not just that of her employer, has been “skyrocketing. It’s been a really beautiful thing to see people coming out and it’s comforting to know that people are taking care of each other” by being mindful of and patronizing smaller businesses.

The story is much the same at The Rose Establishment, where front-of-house manager Austin Wright and other employees wear masks and gloves to serve customers through an open window, then gesture them to a wooden patio where they wait a safe distance apart for their orders.

“We don’t know the timing or what dine-in will look like when it comes back,” Wright said, noting the company, like most companies, has never faced anything like this in its decade-plus history. It struggled with dwindling customers and wasted food when COVID-19 first appeared in Utah, then closed entirely for six weeks early in the pandemic. The owners were fortunate to have some forgiving landlords, Wright said.

Reopening to takeout has provided challenges, but also the opportunity to innovate, according to Wright. The Rose never planned to offer online sales, but pivoted in the pandemic to include that. The menu has been switched up some, like offering a family-meal-size version of its frittata that can be taken home to eat. That lots of people like to snag beverages to take with them to work or on walks is nothing new and that has helped a lot.

When public health officials deem it safe, The Rose will likely be able to fill maybe 10 tables of two to four people each indoors, Wright said, but time to just linger for a long time over a beverage will be limited.

That’s something several coffee shops told the Deseret News will be true for the short term until the world’s completely “green” again in COVID-19 terms. Until then, grab-and-go just may be the new normal.