• Jacque Coe

It's Official; State issues restaurant/tavern reopening requirements

Washington state has released the official requirements for restaurants and taverns to reopen in-house dining. Restaurants and taverns can reopen according to the guidelines below during Phase 2 of the governor’s Safe Start Washington plan. If you have a restaurant in one of the eight counties that has been approved to move into Phase 2, you may reopen as soon as you can meet the requirements of the guidelines. If not, you can begin making preparations today.

Official requirements

Phase 2: The restaurant/tavern must adopt a written procedure for dine-in service that is at least as strict as the Phase 2 procedure below and complies with all safety and health requirements.

Procedure for dine-in service:

Restaurant/tavern must ensure strict adherence to all measures established by the Governor’s guidance, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) Coronavirus (COVID-19) Prevention: General Requirements and Prevention Ideas for Workplaces, and the Washington State Department of Health Workplace and Employer Resources & Recommendations (DOH). All businesses are strongly encouraged to require their customers to use cloth face coverings when interacting with their staff.

  • Hand sanitizer should be available at entry for all staff and patrons (assuming supply availability).

  • No bar seating is permitted during Phase 2. If an establishment has bar seating it must be closed off to prohibit use.

  • If the establishment does not offer table service, they must have protocols in place to ensure adequate social distancing at food and drink pick-up stations, and seating within their dining area.

  • All parties and tables must be 5 guests or fewer.

  • Guest occupancy must be 50% of maximum building occupancy or lower as determined by the fire code. Outdoor seating is permitted but must also be at 50% capacity. Outdoor seating does not count toward the building occupancy limit. Outdoor seating must follow all other requirements in this document.

  • Tables must be placed far enough apart when measured from occupied chair to occupied chair, to ensure dine-in guests seated at a table are a minimum of 6 feet away from guests at adjacent table, or there must be a physical barrier or wall separating booths or tables.

  • It is strongly suggested customers wear a cloth face covering anytime they are not seated at the table (while being seated or leaving, or while going to the restroom).

  • Buffets and salad bars are not permitted at this time but may be addressed through subsequent interpretive guidance.

  • If the establishment offers table service, create a daily log of all customers and maintain that daily log for 30 days, including telephone/email contact information, and time in. This will facilitate any contact tracing that might need to occur.

  • Single-use menus are required for in-person dining.

  • Any condiments typically left on the table (ketchup, soy sauce, etc.) must be single-use or sanitized after each use.

  • Restaurants must have implemented a plan to ensure proper physical distancing in lobby/waiting areas/payment counters.

  • Minimize the number of staff serving any given table. It is strongly recommended that one staff person take a table’s order, bring all of their beverages/food/utensils, take their payment, etc.

Employee safety and health

The restaurant/tavern operating during Phase 2 has a general obligation to keep a safe and healthy facility in accordance with state and federal law, and comply with the following coronavirus worksite-specific safety practices, as outlined in Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy Proclamation 20-25, and in accordance with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries General Requirements and Prevention Ideas for Workplaces and the Washington State Department of Health Workplace and Employer Resources & Recommendations at https://www.doh.wa.gov/Coronavirus/workplace. All businesses are required to post signage at the entrance to their business to strongly encourage their customers to use cloth face coverings when inside the business.

Employers must specifically ensure operations follow the main L&I coronavirus requirements to protect workers, including:

  • Educate workers in the language they understand best about coronavirus and how to prevent transmission and the employer’s coronavirus policies.

  • Maintain minimum six-foot separation between all employees (and customers) in all interactions at all times. When strict physical distancing is not feasible for a specific task, other prevention measures are required, such as use of barriers, minimize staff or customers in narrow or enclosed areas, stagger breaks, and work shift starts.

  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, face shields and face masks as appropriate or required to employees for the activity being performed. Cloth facial coverings must be worn by every employee not working alone on the job site unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection under Department of Labor & Industries safety and health rules and guidance. Refer to Coronavirus Facial Covering and Mask Requirements for additional details. A cloth facial covering is described in the Department of Health guidance, https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/ClothFacemasks.pdf.

  • Ensure frequent and adequate hand washing with adequate maintenance of supplies. Use disposable gloves where safe and applicable to prevent transmission on tools or other items that are shared.

  • Establish a housekeeping schedule that includes frequent cleaning and sanitizing with a particular emphasis on commonly touched surfaces.

  • Screen employees for signs/symptoms of coronavirus at start of shift. Make sure sick employees stay home or immediately go home if they feel or appear sick. Cordon off any areas where an employee with probable or confirmed coronavirus illness worked, touched surfaces, etc. until the area and equipment is cleaned and sanitized. Follow the cleaning guidelines set by the CDC to deep clean and sanitize.

A site-specific COVID-19 Supervisor shall be designated by the employer at each job site to monitor the health of employees and enforce the COVID-19 job site safety plan.

A worker may refuse to perform unsafe work, including hazards created by coronavirus. And, it is unlawful for their employer to take adverse action against a worker who has engaged in safety-protected activities under the law if their work refusal meets certain requirements.

Employees who choose to remove themselves from a worksite because they do not believe it is safe to work because of the risk of coronavirus exposure may have access to certain leave or unemployment benefits. Employers must provide high-risk individuals covered by Proclamation 20-46 with their choice of access to available employer-granted accrued leave or unemployment benefits if an alternative work arrangement is not feasible. Other employees may have access to expanded family and medical leave included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, access to use unemployment benefits, or access to other paid time off depending on the circumstances. Additional information is available at https://www.lni.wa.gov/agency/outreach/paid-sick-leave-and-coronavirus-covid-19-common-questions.

No restaurant may operate until it can meet and maintain all the requirements in this document, including providing materials, schedules and equipment required to comply. No reopening inspections are required prior to a restaurant reopening provided they meet and maintain all requirements in this document. All issues regarding worker safety and health are subject to enforcement action under L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).

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