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LA Releases Guidelines For Restaurants Once Dining Rooms Are Allowed to Reopen

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Restaurants will have to consider physical distances, new cleaning standards, and employee safety

Large dining room in Los Angeles.
A large, dim dining room
Wonho Frank Lee

Los Angeles has quietly released an in-depth set of guidelines for restaurants to follow prior to reopening. The 17-page document, dated last week, was dropped onto the city’s coronavirus information landing page with little fanfare yesterday, and is the first official municipal guidance yet for restaurants to begin to implement as the county pushes for a reopening in the coming weeks.

Many of the guidelines might already familiar to people who have picked up takeout food from restaurants or have seen modified areas in the front of restaurants. However, notable changes for diners might be spaced tables or physical barriers, service staff wearing masks, and focus on reservations instead of walk-ins and waiting areas. In addition, restaurants are to discourage handshakes or any unnecessary forms of physical contact, limit party sizes to 10 people, set tables without utensils or glassware, and provide contactless payment whenever possible.

The document “contains tools for the Los Angeles Restaurants and Bars industry to plan for the safety of employees and customers as it prepares to resume operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The guidelines go into detail for best practices of physical distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, overall facility safety, customer expectations, and employee support. Much of each section is framed as a questionnaire, with boxes to check. The following are just a few of the more pertinent questions among dozens that might significantly affect restaurant operations and the dining experience.

  • Have you reconfigured floor plans to ensure tables at six feet apart? Installed physical barriers when that is not possible?
  • Where applicable, do you have a plan for reservations or call-ahead seating to better space customers in advance?
  • Do you have a disinfection plan for workstations, points of sale, food/drink preparation areas, customer dining areas, and other high-touch surfaces?
  • Do you have enough masks, gloves, and other PPE required for employees in inventory?
  • Do you have a plan to make sure customers are informed and prepared to visit your restaurant?
  • Have you trained employees returning to work on COVID-19 health and safety guidelines?

The full document with a complete listing of best practices can be found here.

While Los Angeles (city and county) has so far declined to offer a reopening date for restaurant dining rooms, county officials have said that they will apply today for a variance that would allow businesses to begin reopening under California governor Gavin Newsom’s guidelines. Nearby counties like Kern, Orange, Santa Barbara, and Ventura have already reopened for dine-in service. County officials had previously said that much of Los Angeles will not reopen until at least July 4, though they have begun to walk back that timeline some in recent days. Some health officials within the state say that California is reopening too quickly, and that the risk of an increase in COVID-19 cases is likely as a result.

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