As of the writing of this post, New York COVID-19 cases are continuing to drop, and businesses have slowly started to reopen. For restaurant owners, this is a big relief as they have lost substantial money due to closure of in-person dining. However, the reopening is occurring in stages which vary by region. While restaurants should check for the latest information in their area, here is a general overview:
Phase 2: Currently New York City
Restaurants in Phase 2 regions may open outdoor dining and bar spaces to customers in accordance with the “Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Outdoor and Take-Out/Delivery Food Services.” Indoor dining and bar spaces must remain closed. Consumption of any dine-in food and/or beverage must occur at tables or bar tops in these outdoor spaces.
The requirements for take-out and outdoor dining include the following:
- Tables must be spaced at least 6-feet apart or have a physical barrier between them that is at least 5 feet high. A table should have no more than 10 people from the same party.
- Restaurants may offer indoor restroom access to customers, provided that social distancing is promoted within and while waiting for restrooms.
- Signage must be posted indicating 6 foot spacing in lines and encouraging customers to adhere to social distancing and PPE guidelines when possible.
- Restaurants must designate entrances/exits for customers and separate entrances/exits for employees, where possible.
- Face coverings must be used by employees and customers, except when seated.
- Hand hygiene stations must be provided for customers waiting for food and/or drinks.
- Employees must be given appropriate PPE at no cost while they are at work.
- Employers must provide employee training on appropriate hygiene measures, cleaning of equipment, and how to use, clean and/or dispose of PPE.
- Employers must limit the sharing of tools and equipment or ensure proper cleaning in between uses by employees.
- Mandatory daily health screening of employees is required.
- Employers must take measures to reduce interpersonal contact and allow for social distancing of employees when possible.
Note that owners need to apply for permits for outdoor dining as provided by their local government.
Phase Three: Currently Capital Region, Western NY, Mid-Hudson, and Long Island
Indoor restaurant seating is permitted in these regions provided the establishment complies with the “Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Food Services.” Essentially, the same requirements for outdoor dining apply to indoor dining, including the spacing of tables, use of face coverings, posting signs and social distancing markers, separate entrances/exits, etc. In addition, indoor capacity must be limited to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy for a particular area of the establishment.
Employee protections and training requirements continue to apply.
Phase Four: Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier
This phase permits reopening of low risk indoor or outdoor arts and entertainment. Social distancing , PPE, screening and other requirements apply at such venues, including any food served on premises.
Employees Diagnosed with COVID
If an employee or vendor screens positive for COVID-19 symptoms, they should not be allowed to enter the premises and should be sent home with instructions to contact their healthcare provider for assessment and testing. The restaurant location also must notify the health department and comply with contact tracing requirements established by the state.
This is only an overview. Restaurant owners should consult the guides mentioned above. In addition, they should stay abreast of any changes by the state and their local government. If cases begin to rise, restaurants could be forced to scale back operations again. For up-to-date information on the phased reopening, see the New York State website.
If you are a restaurant franchisor or franchisee, you should talk with a franchise attorney about how COVID-19 may impact your business including your rights and obligations under your franchise agreement, FDD disclosures, payment of fees or related issues.
Contact Lusthaus Law for assistance with your franchise.