Update June 10: This blog has been updated to reflect current guidance about restaurant reopening in Los Angeles.
On May 28, 2020, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced guidelines for reopening restaurants and bars in the city. The Mayor's office developed these guidelines in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, a working group consisting of restaurant leaders across different dining segments, hospitality industry organizations, and state and federal officials. They are intended to supplement—but not replace—guidance from the State of California and the LA County Public Health Department.
According to the June 1, 2020, update to the guidelines, restaurants in Los Angeles "are permitted to provide dine-in service, but their capacity is limited to 60% of their seating occupancy pre-COVID-19. Bar areas that serve food may remain open if they can adhere with the 6 feet distancing requirement and maintain 6 feet of distance from employee work or food and drink preparation areas." Bars and brewpubs, however, can reopen "once the County's protocols have been implemented"—provided they serve food. Bars that do not serve food are not permitted to open at this time.
The Mayor's guidelines include (1) a checklist of pre-opening considerations; (2) a lengthy checklist of "best practices for safe operations," and (3) supporting materials, including signage, sample physical distancing layouts, and links to resources available to operators from various governmental and private sources.
In large part, the Mayor's guidelines overlap with—and build from—the State's May 12, 2020, COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Dine-In Restaurants. Operators in Los Angeles should consider both sets of guidelines as they transition toward reopening.
Los Angeles County issued a reopening toolkit for dine-in restaurants.
The California Department of Public Health issued industry-specific guidance restaurants, bars, and wineries.
The guidelines characterize the pre-opening checklist as a non-exhaustive list of "common topics restaurants and bars may need to address to safely resume operations," noting that "each business will need to adapt their plan to address their unique business circumstances and needs."
These topics ask operators whether they have (1) taken various steps to ensure proper physical distancing; (2) prepared themselves to ensure employee health and symptom screening; (3) considered operational modifications to ensure facility safety; and (4) provided returning employees sufficient health and safety training.
Operational Best Practices
The bulk of the guidelines are devoted to operational best practices, characterized as "suggestions for restaurants and bars to safely resume operations." The guidelines note that these "suggestions should be adapted based on the unique circumstances of each business."
- Physical Distancing. This is the most in-depth topic in the guidelines. Key items include:
- Occupancy is limited to 60 percent of pre-pandemic seating, subject to a required six feet between groups of customers. The City will reevaluate occupancy in 21 days. The guidelines give several examples of compliant (and non-compliant) table arrangements.
- The number of guests at a single table should be limited to six people "that should be members of one household."
- Restaurants should continue to prioritize outdoor seating, takeout, and curbside pickup.
- Use technology, where possible, to limit person-to-person interactions.
- Take measures to ensure physical distancing in various types of interactions between and among customers, restaurant staff, vendors, and other visitors.
- Cleaning and Sanitizing
- Complete thorough cleaning of entire facility prior to reopening.
- Complete frequent sanitation of high-touch surfaces and shared items, and disinfect reused/shareable materials between each use.
- If using paper menus, discard after each customer use.
- Hand sanitizer should be readily available, including at facility entrances.
- If an employee tests positive, close off areas used by sick person until any areas affected can be cleaned and disinfected per CDC guidelines.
- Employee Health and Personal Hygiene
- Employees must not come to work if sick or if they have been exposed to a person suffering from COVID-19
- Employer must have a plan or protocol in place when an employee tests positive for COVID-19, including self-quarantine of all employees exposed to the affected employee.
- Reports must be made to the Department of Public Health if a restaurant has three or more COVID-19 cases within fourteen days.
- Employees must be screened for COVID-19 before each shift, either remotely or in-person upon arrival.
- Employers must provide face shields to servers and other staff servicing customers who have removed their face coverings to eat and drink. In such cases, servers must wear both masks and face shields.
- Facility Safety
- Take steps, where possible, to increase ventilation of the facility
- Self-service machines are to be used only by employees
- Areas where customers congregate or may touch foodware items that other customers may use should be closed.
- Provide clean glassware for customer drink refills.
- Restrooms should be cleaned and disinfected on an hourly basis.
- Customer seating areas must be cleaned and sanitized after each use.
- Customer Expectations
- Post signage to remind customers to practice physical distancing and wash hands and to discourage post-meal socializing.
- Operators' online presence (i.e., websites and social media) should provide clear and detailed information about issues relevant to the pandemic.
The Mayor's guidelines contain extensive support materials, including (1) signage which operators can download and post in their facilities; (2) sample sanitation kit list and cleaning checklist; (3) examples of physical distancing setups; (4) employee training materials; (5) best practices for customer and employee communications; and (6) links to third-party resources, including those from state and federal agencies, as well as from private entities.
Los Angeles County issued Guidance for Ventilation in Restaurants.
Although the Mayor's guidelines are framed as "suggestions," many are stated in mandatory terms. Restaurant operators are encouraged to review the Mayor's guidelines alongside parallel county and state guidelines, in consultation with their management teams and outside counsel, to assure compliance.
The facts, laws, and regulations regarding COVID-19 are developing rapidly. Since the date of publication, there may be new or additional information not referenced in this advisory. Please consult with your legal counsel for guidance.
DWT will continue to provide up-to-date insights and virtual events regarding COVID-19 concerns. Our most recent insights, as well as information about recorded and upcoming virtual events, are available at www.dwt.com/COVID-19.