Los Angeles County will allow restaurants, breweries, and wineries to begin opening for patio service starting today. The outdoor dining rules that restaurants and diners will need to follow are similar to what was in place prior to the November shutdown, with a few updates.
Mixed Household Groups: While some at-home gatherings of mixed households have been permitted under the latest health order, L.A. County rules do not allow customers to dine at a restaurant table with people who do not live in their household. Restaurants will be obligated to post signage to that effect and verbally remind customers of the rule.
Face Coverings for Customers: Customers have to wear a face mask when they enter and walk through the dining area, and any time they are not seated specifically for the purpose of eating and drinking. Masks should stay on until the order arrives, and any time a server has to interact with the table. The rule applies to all customers over the age of 2 except in the case of specific medical hazards. Customers who arrive without masks should be offered a disposable covering, any individual who refuses to mask can be refused service and ejected from the restaurant.
Face Coverings for Workers: All workers have to wear at least a standard covering of the nose and mouth. Those who interact with customers directly, like servers and cashiers, will also need to add a full face shield, and keep both on at all times when in areas that are open to customers. Face shields or goggles must also be worn by workers responsible for washing dishes and utensils used by customers, and dishwashers must also wear “impermeable aprons” to protect their bodies from being splashed with contaminated fluids. Employers must offer appropriate face coverings to workers at no cost.
Children: All kids aged 2 and up must follow the same mask requirements as other patrons. Children must also be kept seated at the table with the adults who brought them, and cannot touch “any other person or any item that does not belong to them.”
Table Spacing: Tables must be eight feet apart from each other, two feet farther than under the previous outdoor dining rules. Removing and blocking off other seats, placing distancing markings on the floor, and stationing a worker near to remind guests not to gather or move furniture around are suggested, but not strictly required. Restaurants are also encouraged, but not required, to arrange furniture in patterns that minimize face-to-face seating.
Capacity: Seating is capped at 50 percent occupancy. No single group can have more than six guests.
Televisions: Sorry if you were planning to watch the Super Bowl on a restaurant patio, all televisions and “screens that broadcast programming” must stay off until further notice. That rule is likely a response to large crowds of customers that gathered, often ignoring distancing rules, to watch the World Series and other recent televised events.
Events and Parties: Restaurants are not allowed to host or rent their spaces for any “receptions, banquets, or other coordinated, organized, or invited events or gatherings.” Not even for sheriffs.
Ordering, Reservations, and More: Restaurants, wineries, and breweries are all encouraged to ask customers to book their meals and tastings in advance to control crowd size and limit waiting. Systems that allow for pre-ordering, to further minimize the time diners actually spend on site, are also recommended. Any “technology solutions” for mobile menus, app ordering, or any other way of minimizing the contact between customer and waitstaff all get a thumbs up from the health department.
Tents and Temporary Structures: L.A. County will follow California’s statewide guidance regarding what constitutes an acceptable tent or patio covering. No more than 50 percent of the structure can have “impermeable walls” (such as the floor to ceiling side coverings on some tents) and the structure must permit “unrestricted outdoor air movement resulting in cross-ventilation.” Generally speaking, restaurants should stick to umbrellas and open-sided, sunshade-style tents.
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